Malaysia passes law to discourage party defections

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob waves to members of the media before departing for a meeting with the King, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysia on Thursday passed a law discouraging elected lawmakers from switching political parties, following a series of defections that has caused political instability in recent years.

The new law could be crucial in providing stability as national elections are expected to be called earlier than the September 2023 deadline.

Malaysia has seen two coalition governments collapse since February 2020, partly due to moves by lawmakers to switch party allegiances while retaining their seats in parliament.

Under the new law, a lawmaker who decides to change parties after being elected to the post, would lose their position in parliament. The lower house of parliament passed the law by a two-thirds majority.

“This… is important to ensure long-term political stability,” Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement.

The law is expected to be tabled in the upper house in August, and if approved – as expected – it will come into effect shortly after.

Malaysia has had three prime ministers since 2020, compounding uncertainty wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown.

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