Ex-Bersatu 7 must brace unavoidable by-elections following defections

Ex-Bersatu 7 must brace unavoidable by-elections following defections
Bersatu has sacked its six MPs and a Selangor assemblyman who betrayed the party by declaring support for the federal and Selangor unity governments. (Pic credit: Wikipedia Bahasa Melayu)

Bersatu has sacked its six MPs and a Selangor assemblyman who betrayed the party by declaring support for the federal and Selangor unity governments.

They are MPs Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal (Bukit Gantang), Azizi Abu Naim (Gua Musang), Dr Zulkafperi Hanapi (Tanjong Karang), Zahari Kechik (Jeli), Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid (Kuala Kangsar), Suhaili Abdul Rahman (Labuan) and Selat Klang assemblyman Abdul Rashid Asari.

The party decided to give the boot to these leaders following their failure to obey Bersatu’s instruction on 17 May 2024 to pledge loyalty to the party within 14 days, a power provided by Clause 10.4 of its party constitution. They have since ceased to be members of Bersatu automatically after 31 May 2024.

Defecting for the voters?

In justifying their defections, these politicians cited reasons such as needing more allocations to serve their constituents, the need for infrastructural developments, and their faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Selangor menteri besar Amirudin Shari.

Their defections could have been avoided in the first place if there was a federal law that mandates equal (or equitable) constituency development funds (CDF) for all elected representatives irrespective of party affiliations. The present method where the opposition has to negotiate with the government to secure their rightfully gained CDF, is bad for Malaysian parliamentary democracy in the long run.

This is because opposition lawmakers could risk being subjected to conditions to make themselves eligible for CDF such as having to back the prime minister and voting in favour of bills tabled by the government in the house, no matter how bad these bills are. Opposition politicians who refuse to agree to these (hypothetical) conditions could risk being deprived of their rightful funds.

But still, these excuses should have never been used by these men to betray the mandate given by their voters by defecting to the unity governments. They should have fought for equal CDF together with their comrades in PN rather than just taking the easy way out by jumping. They treated the voters’ mandate as a joke, just like any other party hoppers have done in the past.

It is worth noting that Malaysian voters vote based on political party line, meaning that voters in these seven affected constituencies voted for these men simply because they were from Perikatan Nasional. They would have never been voted in if they were from Pakatan Harapan or Barisan Nasional.

PN-backing voters are very much aware that they could not expect a lot of government aid to pour into their hometowns should their elected politicians sit on the opposition bench, as this has been the unwritten status quo in this country’s politics for a long time. Yet, they voted for these men and women anyway simply due to their support for the party.

Therefore, when these Bersatu defectors claimed that they defected for their constituents' sake, chances are the latter might not have “blessed” their actions. It would be downright hilarious to assume that hardcore PAS supporters in Gua Musang, Jeli or Tanjong Karang are happy that their elected reps are supporting Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, whom they view with much contempt. Therefore, party hoppers need to stop citing voters as the reason for their defection.

It is time that these seven ex-Bersatu leaders are held accountable to their voters who chose the PN. It does not matter whether you are a PH, BN or a PN supporter. If your elected representative betrayed you by jumping ship, you have the right to give a new mandate to a newly elected representative from a party of your choice.

After all, the anti-hopping law that was passed in 2022 took the need to respect voter mandates into account. Therefore, it is high time that the law is exercised to give justice to these voters.

Under the federal anti-hopping law (Article 49(a) of the Federal Constitution) and the Selangor Anti-Party-Hopping Enactment, When MPs or state assemblymen leave or cease to be members of their parties, their legislative seats should be vacated as per the respective laws.

In the case of the Bersatu 7, since they have ceased to be party members, their seats have become vacant and by-elections need to be called. It is at this moment that Dewan Rakyat Speaker Johari Abdul and Selangor assembly speaker Lau Weng San make the call by declaring these seven seats to be vacant the moment they receive the notices from Bersatu on cessation of membership.

At the time this article was being written, both Johari and Lau were reported as saying that they had yet to receive the notices from Bersatu, and therefore they get to keep their seats at the moment. It is unknown why is it taking so long for Bersatu to issue these notices when decisions were made last month.

Is the party attempting to make a huge scene in the Dewan Rakyat when the House convenes on June 26 by issuing the notices on that day? If that is the case, then it would be childish and irresponsible for Bersatu to do so as the party is making the Election Commission wait for weeks for vacancies to be announced.

In addition, it would be downright “foolish” for Bersatu to delay these by-elections especially when they are looking forward to new representatives being elected as soon as possible. Therefore, Bersatu needs to be swift in issuing these notices.

Upon the issuance of these notices, both Speaker Johari and Lau need to announce the vacancies so that the Election Commission can come up with dates for these by-elections and do the necessary preparations.

As for the Bersatu 7, they might have tried their best to avoid these by-elections for months, but the time has come for them to prepare themselves to run for office when the vacancies are announced. They would have to decide on whether to contest under the unity government ticket or as independent should PH and BN decide to contest in these seats.

If they won their reelection bids, it would show that the voters have indeed “blessed” their past defections, and would like to see them continue serving in these constituencies. However, should they lose, they would have to be smart enough to understand the signals shown by their voters.

It is unfair that the voices of disappointed voters are ignored during the post-defection period. They should be allowed to give their say as per the anti-hopping laws put in place.

As for the Bersatu 7, they would need to start preparing now for the re-elections. No more avoiding the unavoidable.


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