Malaysia’s Election Commission went by the book on redrawing electoral map
I refer to the article in This Week in Asia, titled “Did Najib just pocket the Malaysian election? Opposition uproar as Barisan Nasional forces through boundary changes”, (March 27).
The re-delineation of electoral boundaries is a fundamental process in any democratic nation. In fact, in Malaysia, the Electoral Commission (EC) has a constitutional duty, at least every eight to 10 years, to review and recommend changes, to ensure balance in voter populations between constituencies.
The last re-delineation exercise was carried out in 2003, almost 15 years ago.
In practice, the notion of “one man, one vote, one value” is not reasonable. In towns, people live in high-density apartment blocks, flats and terrace houses, while in rural areas, the population is sparse.
A district like Kapit in Sarawak is roughly the size of the state of Pahang, but the population is low and the area is fully forested. We cannot use an apple-to-apple comparison.
Each vote is secret, and the votes are given freely. A re-delineation does not make someone change his preference. If the people don’t like you, they won’t vote for you. It’s that simple.
Allegations that the EC was not transparent and the re-delineation proposal was not presented to the people are simply false. Its members are appointed by the king. The EC does not make a final decision on the re-delineation – it just proposes, and Parliament decides, in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
Compare this to Singapore, where the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee of the Elections Department is appointed directly by the prime minister and chaired by the secretary to the prime minister. Additionally, the entire electoral system in Singapore, with its Group Representation Constituencies (GRC), is designed to create a barrier for smaller opposition parties to participate in elections.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, Congress wields the power to redistrict provinces or cities piecemeal, without a public referendum. This has enabled local dynasties to influence the district-making process – by carving out new districts/provinces from the old ones in their bid to retain power.
Consider this, if the re-delineation has a negative impact on the opposition, how did they win to form several state governments in 2008 and 2013, after the 2003 process?
Nonetheless, all stakeholders should continue working together to bring Malaysia’s standing in electoral integrity to the next level.
Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, immediate past chairman, Election Commission, Malaysia