Gerrymandering in Malaysia

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Barisan Nasional-friendly (BN) gerrymandering and unequal constituency sizes means that one rural vote was worth 6 urban voters in the 2013 general elections.[1]

Barisan Nasional-friendly (BN) gerrymandering and unequal constituency sizes means that 30% of Malaysians living in the rural and semi-rural parts of Malaysia sent 71% of the politicians into Parliament in the 2013 general elections. 158 of the 222 parliamentary seats were non-urban.[1] But nothing is likely to change in the composition of seats and the redrawing of boundaries between now and the 14th general elections.

It is just not good enough to talk about corruption or the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu in areas where the UMNO network is strong, and where government handouts are welcomed by grateful hands.

For Pakatan Rakyat, the task of winning the rural vote was left largely to PAS in the 2013 general elections. The party had a difficult time fighting off UMNO's propaganda that a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) rule would diminish the position of the Malays and Islam. "It has to do with the fears of Malays on security and confidence in a multi-racial country and their livelihood in the rural areas. These are the issues that BN has been able to capitalize on successfully, to create a fear of Pakatan Rakyat". says Ibrahim Suffian, head of the Merdeka Centre.[1]

Gerrymandering in Malaysia

2.  2008 general elections: Based on the 12th general election in 2008, the Barisan Nasional won 112 of the 139 smallest seats for a simple majority, with just 2.06 million voters (18.9% out of 10.9 million voter population) to form the government.[2] In short, only 2.06 million voters effectively decide the outcome of the general elections.

When the Election Commission claimed, after 10 months of inaction, that it did not have the resources to carry out the necessary redelineation, Tindak Malaysia offered to carry out the delineation exercise with the help of qualified geographers within 6 months, with a budget equivalent to that expended by the Election Commission in 2003.[2] Despite the offer, the PSC has failed to address this issue.

3.  2013 general elections: The combined votes in the 2013 general elections who wanted a change of government amounted to 5.82 million, compared with 5.24 million who preferred the status quo. Under the present electoral boundaries, the 5.24 million who voted for the government were rewarded with 133 parliamentary seats, whereas the 5.82 million who voted for change were rewarded with only 89 parliamentary seats. Thus, a government representing the minority was formed. A democratic system of government is usually associated with a government representing the majority.[3]}}

Parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform

Armed with printouts and presentation slides, Ng Chak Ngoon (who described himself only as a retiree) told the public hearing by the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform in Kota Kinabalu on 26 November 2011, that, in the 2008 general election, all the constituencies won by Barisan Nasional (BN) were very small, while the opposition constituencies were very big. He said: "It's not by chance that all the people in big constituencies like the opposition and all those people in the small constituencies like BN. I would think there is a design here for the Election Commission (EC) to subdivide all the BN areas into smaller areas to increase their number of MPs." [4]

Ng added that the smallest constituency, BN-held Putrajaya only had 6,008 voters, while the Opposition-held Kapar had a staggering 112,224 voters, 17 times more than Putrajaya. "If we break down Kapar to the size of Putrajaya, you would have 17 MPs from Kapar, instead of just one."

If all the seats are made into equal size, Ng added, the 2008 general election would yield a result where BN and Pakatan Rakyat would only have a difference of seven seats in Parliament, as opposed to the actual results of 140 to 82 seats.[4]

He further estimated that if a party relied on all the small seats to win power, it would only require 15.4% of the total votes to form a majority in Parliament. Explaining further, Ng said the smallest constituency in Malaysia was 13% of the national average, while the largest was 288%, in contrast to the UK's which smallest and largest constituency are 77% and 153% of the national average respectively. "If the EC is sincere, it should redraw all the constituencies, this is not gerrymandering, this is outright cheating," he said.[4]

PSC member Dr Hatta Ramli concurred, pointing out that the Baling parliamentary constituency, supposedly a rural seat, had an unusually large number of constituents at around 70,000. "This was because PAS has won the seat before," said Hatta.

2002-2003 redelineation of electoral boundaries [5]

Ethnicity has been a common factor in determining new boundaries, not surprisingly because Malaysian political parties are race-based. The 2002-2003 delimitation was influenced by the 1999 general election. Then, Malay Malaysians abandoned UMNO in anger over Anwar Ibrahim's sacking and his first sodomy trial, while Chinese Malaysians were stoutly behind the Barisan Nasional.

With that in mind, the delimitation exercise sought to redistribute non-Malay voters who helped the Barisan Nasional (BN) survive the 1999 polls in Malay-majority areas. This ensured BN a fighting chance in the 2004 general elections. Many analyses credited the "new" factor of then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for the Barisan Nasional's landslide victory, but other analysts have also questioned the role that the delimitation had played.

In a study on Kedah, political scientists Dr. Ong Kian Ming and Dr. Bridget Welsh (Singapore Management University) suggested that the 2002-2003 exercise did help Barisan Nasional's fortunes in 2004. Several adjustments were made to the state's parliamentary seats, after PAS won 8 seats in 1999 when it had none before that. PAS also won an additional 8 state seats that year.

"The delimitation process involved moving 'safe areas' in traditional UMNO strongholds and non-Malay seats into constituencies that were vulnerable to the opposition... in order to create constituencies that would strengthen the BN's electoral position," wrote Ong and Welsh in their paper, Political Delineation or Guiding Principles? Electoral Delimitation in Kedah 2002.

In their study, both observe how Gurun, an MCA state seat originally in the Kuala Muda parliamentary constituency, was moved to the Jerai parliamentary seat which was under PAS. BN won Jerai in the 2004 poll. However, PAS managed to reclaim the seat in the historic 2008 general elections.

Other examples include moving the Kuala Ketil state seat, originally in the MCA-held Padang Serai parliamentary constituency, to the Baling parliamentary seat which was under PAS. UMNO won Baling in 2004. Again, however, PAS managed to wrest the seat back in 2008.

Yet another example is the swapping of state seats between the PAS-held Pokok Sena and MCA-won Alor Setar parliamentary constituencies. Tanjung Seri in Pokok Sena, a Malay-majority seat, was swapped for Derga in Alor Setar which had over 50% non-Malay Malaysians. Both Pokok Sena and Alor Star were won by UMNO and MCA respectively in the 2004 general elections. PAS reclaimed Pokok Sena in 2008, while MCA managed to retain Alor Setar.

Two states which did not see the creation of new seats in the 2002-2003 delimitation were PAS-led Terengganu and Kelantan. "The tendency in redrawing boundaries is to leave opposition strongholds alone, and focus on places where the ruling party is at risk but has a fighting chance, if a multi-racial mix can be achieved," says political observer Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia.  more... at Chronology

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