GEORGE TOWN, September 2 – Despite having its own anti-hopping law, Sabah Chief Minister Hajiji Noor has announced a special sitting of the Sabah state Assembly to amend the Sabah State Constitution in line with the recent amendment to the Federal Constitution in Parliament in July 2022, outlawing party hopping by elected representatives. Hajiji said the special sitting of the Sabah State Assembly was necessary as Sabah did not want to be left behind and the anti-hopping provision was in line with the state’s commitment to ensure political stability.

Since Penang has also previously passed our own anti-hopping law like in Sabah, there should be a special sitting of the Penang State Assembly to align our State Constitution with the Federal Constitution. Such a special sitting should be held by the end of September when the Federal constitutional amendments are expected to be gazetted by then. The Federal Constitution does not consider elected representatives who are expelled as members from the party as party hopping, whilst the Penang State Constitution does.

Further, holding a special sitting for the Penang state assembly by the end of September would also allow the anti-hopping provisions for Penang to be in force in time to cover all State Assemblypersons elected in the 15th general elections. The 15th general election is expected to be held in November following the Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s decision to bring forward the 2023 Budget by 3 weeks to 7 October, after buckling to UMNO’s pressure for early elections this year instead of next year.

Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan confirmed yesterday that the Prime Minister has “given his commitment” that the coming general election will not be held in 2023, likely before December 2022. Clearly the Prime Minister intends to dissolve Parliament after an Election Budget is tabled on 7 October to help him win the elections.

To ensure that the voters’ choice will be respected and not perverted or betrayed by heartless, unprincipled and opportunistic political mercenaries who hop parties for position and funding, it is imperative that the Penang state Assembly meet before the next general elections expected in November. Failing to hold an early special State Assembly sitting would not sit down well with Penang voters and may be exploited politically by BN or PN to question our commitment to the anti-hopping legislation.