What we would all love to see is a little more moral backbone in our elected representatives. This is easier said than done, with millions and millions allegedly being dangled as inducements.

– Nathaniel Tan, coordinator of social movement Projek Wawasan Rakyat (POWR)

After about 28 months, Sabahans are forced to go through another state election, the 16th since 1967. No other states have gone through more elections than the Land Below the Wind. 

Sabah’s election-weary voters will go to the snap polls on Sept 26 to choose their representative for the 73 seats at stake. When nominations closed on Saturday, a whopping 447 candidates, including 56 Independents, submitted their nomination papers.

Let me put it this way, a few of these candidates are just out to try their luck. Some are planted by contesting parties to split votes and perhaps a few might be thinking of making a quick buck, hoping to be paid at the eleventh hour to pull out. No one can deny that Sabah polls have always been interesting. Imagine, the Bengkoka seat alone will witness an 11-cornered battle! And Inanam will see a 10-way fight!

The Election Commission will have to prepare ‘long’ ballot papers for these constituencies.

Several others will see six-way fights (26 seats), five-cornered (15), seven-cornered (13), eight cornered (six), four-cornered (five) and three-cornered battles in three.

As everyone knows, the snap election is prompted by the dissolution of the state legislative assembly announced by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal on July 30, a day after former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman claimed to have enough assemblymen on his side to form a new state government. One should not fault Shafie Apdal. He was just averting a ‘backdoor government’ from toppling a legitimately elected government.

While party-hopping assemblymen are mainly to blame for forcing the snap polls, part of the blame should be shouldered by the indecisive Sabahan voters themselves who did not give a comfortable mandate to Shafie Apdal, leader of Sabah Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the Warisan coalition government.

Come Sept 26, Sabahans need to give a clear mandate to the party or coalition they wish to elect. I don’t care two hoots about who they wish to vote for. But for goodness sake, please be decisive and give a clear mandate to prevent another round of party-hopping!

Also, teach the political frogs a lesson once and for all by giving them the boot. Put the party-hopping issue to an end. Sabah voters should show the rest of the country that they mean business.

Which comes to the question of the need for an anti-hopping law.

Several NGOs and political groups have voiced out the need for such a law to stop representatives from switching allegiance, and more importantly, to avert financial wastage due to snap elections caused by party defections.

It is said that the Sabah snap polls will cost RM186 million. The huge cost is also because of the necessary steps to be taken as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The last general election cost the Election Commission RM500 million and in the event Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is forced to call the 15th general election before 2023, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said an estimated RM1.2 billion is needed, especially if the election is held during this post-Covid-19 period.

Why are our leaders reluctant to enact an anti-hopping law? Perhaps they have vested interest not to proceed. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his PH government had the chance to enact the law when they were in power but for some reason they did not. A lawyer whom I spoke to says parliament can enact the law and it does not involve an amendment to the Federal Constitution (FC). Apparently, a two-third majority is not needed — a simple majority will suffice. Both the ruling PN coalition and the opposition have to sit down and study the legal aspects and the FC.

Sarawak-born veteran journalist Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, who has covered numerous elections in his 50-year career, has this to say: “An anti-hopping law is the only way to prevent the people’s mandate delivered in a general election from being subverted or stolen.

“In such a situation, it renders the general election meaningless and it is a very expensive affair. For example, in the coming Sabah election, if whichever coalition wins by a small majority, it’s back to square one and another round of frog-jumping can be expected.

“We need to put a stop to what some people have described as ‘democrazy’ once and for all.”

Couldn’t agree with you more, Datuk Seri!

We do not want our elected representatives to be the butt of the joke for being able to be bought and sold. Have dignity!