Sabah assembly passes anti-party hopping bill

The Sabah assembly has passed amendments to the state constitution, which is aimed at preventing party-hopping by elected assemblymen. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 25, 2023.

THE Sabah legislative assembly today passed the Constitution of Sabah (Amendment) Enactment 2023 aimed at preventing party-hopping by elected state representatives.

The bill garnered majority support from the assemblymen after it was tabled by Chief Minister Hajiji Noor with 75 supporting the amendment while four were absent. 

Based on article 43 of the Sabah constitution, any amendment to the constitution cannot be passed by the legislative assembly unless it has been supported on the second and third readings by a two-thirds majority vote.

During the second reading, state opposition leader Shafie Apdal (Senallang-Warisan) proposed a bloc vote for the second clause of the bill aimed at removing article 6 (7) from the state constitution.

Four clauses in the bill were approved with a majority vote, while bloc vote for clause 2 was supported by 61 assemblymen who agreed that article 6(7) of the state constitution should be deleted. Fourteen disagreed while four assemblymen were absent.

For the third reading of the bill, a total of 75 assemblymen expressed support while four assemblymen were absent.

Hajiji, when winding up the debate on the motion, said the bill aimed to delete article 6(7) in the Sabah constitution because it was no longer in line with the requirements under article 6(3) following recent political developments.

Article 6(3), among others, states that the Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negeri shall appoint as chief minister a member of the legislative assembly who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of a majority of the assembly.

Article 6(7), meanwhile, states the leader of a political party that has won a majority of the elected seats of the legislative assembly in a general election and who is a member of the assembly shall be the one who is likely to command the confidence of the majority.

Explaining further, Hajiji said since the 14th general election in 2018, no political party had obtained a majority to govern the state and since then, the state government has been administered by a coalition of political parties.

“…the state government since 2018 has been a coalition government, so this does not meet the requirements of article 6(7).

“This (amendment) makes it easier for the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah to make discretionary decisions, (on) who gets the support of the majority… and for the Yang di-Pertua to decide (on a situation) of the position of the coalition and the support of the assemblymen when the support (of a party) does not exceed 50%,” he said.

Hajiji also said today’s amendment does not involve appointed assemblymen as they are not voted in by the electorate and do not have a constituency to represent.

Sabah has a total of 79 assemblymen, of which 73 are elected and six are appointed. – Bernama, May 25, 2023.

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