LETTER | To start with, Malaysia’s voting method is flawed. Malaysia practices a First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting system which entails the candidate receiving the most votes winning, i.e. winner takes all.
The flaw in the FPTP method is that it gives rise to a distorted representation system. Meaning, the electors who would have voted for the runner-up candidate, despite winning, for example, 49% of the votes, would have no representation at all in the government.
In the 13th general election, BN having lost the popular vote to the opposition by 47.37%, was still able to win 133 out 222 seats in the House, all thanks to the FPTP system.
What Malaysia should have, instead, is an electoral system similar to the Proportional Representation (PR) system where all votes cast in an election determines, by simple proportionality, how many votes each party has in Parliament and representation is made in Parliament accordingly. So every vote counts.
About 89 countries use the PR voting method, inter alia Finland, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia.
Therefore, it is crucial that Malaysia makes efforts to improve the equality in its representation in Parliament. Any measures that the government undertakes, if not to improve, would only further deteriorate our electoral system that is already flawed, and aligned with the tyranny of the minority.
EC: Custodian or culprit?
In Malaysia, voting is not democratic, it is only an exercise of our democratic right. The closest to democracy that we Malaysians get, is the fair representation of voters in Parliament.
Frighteningly, the Election Commission (EC) is the custodian of our democracy- it is tasked with the constitutional obligation to ensure that all Malaysians are equally represented in Parliament’s 222 seats.
The EC ensures this through delineation. Delineation is the division of the federation and states into constituencies. In consequence, there should be an approximately equal number of electors in each constituency for there to be equal representation in Parliament, save for rural constituencies, as per S.2 (c) in the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution.
Through this process, Malaysians must hold an approximate equal voting power; because it would certainly be unfair and unrepresentative if an electorate from one constituency is entitled to a larger representation in Parliament compared to electorates from other constituencies.
On March 9, the EC submitted a re-delineation report to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak that was tabled for its first reading this morning.
The re-delineation report proposes to legitimise a betrayal, a complete sell-out, for Malaysians to have any chance for a democracy.
Purpose of re-delineation
Article 113 (2) of the Federal Constitution provides that the EC can only re-delineate if the current electoral boundaries do not comply with the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution and the re-delineation must be done exclusively to correct the identified non-compliances. The end product of the delineation must be the successful correction of the non-compliances.
S.2 of the 13th Schedule provides that the EC is limited to four grounds in carrying-out the re-delineation of electoral boundaries, i.e.:
(i) constituencies ought to be delimited so that they do not cross state boundaries, and regard ought to be had to the inconveniences of state constituencies crossing boundaries of federal constituencies;
(ii) regard ought to be had to the administrative facilities available within the constituencies for the establishment of the necessary registration and polling machines;
(iii) the number of electors within each constituency in a state ought to be approximately equal, save for rural constituencies where a measure of weight for area ought to be given to such constituencies; and
(iv) regard ought to be had to the inconveniences attendant on alterations of constituencies and to the maintenance of local ties.
These provisions in our Federal Constitution are meant to stand as safeguards against the manipulation of boundaries of constituencies for the advantage of a particular political party.
Malapportionment and gerrymandering
As it stands, the current boundaries of constituencies are guilty of either malapportionment and/or gerrymandering. Malapportionment is the manipulation of electorate size where electors have unequal voting power.
For example, in Selangor, one person’s vote in the Sabak Bernam constituency is worth 3.5 persons’ vote in the Subang constituency because there are 37,318 electors in Sabak Bernam and 128,542 electors in the Subang.
Another instance is in Penang, where there are deviations of over 90% in the size of the electorate amongst constituencies. For example, Paya Terubong (largest state constituency) has 41,707 voters, whereas Air Putih (smallest state constituency) has 12, 752 voters.
These constituencies neighbour each other and are both urban. There can be no possible justification for the extreme deviation in the size of the electorate.
In the same vein, gerrymandering is the manipulation of electorate composition to favour a political party.
How this works is a small number of voters are re-districted and this changes the composition of the local demography, causing an increase in the number of voters having a polarity towards one particular party. For example, one Felda resettlement in a Johor constituency is all that takes BN to win that seat.
There are three primary types of gerrymandering, all prohibited under the Federal Constitution:
(1) boundaries that cut across local authority areas, causing districts and/or municipalities to be fragmented, e.g. the constituency of Sg Buloh which has four local municipalities within its boundaries;
(2) boundaries that cut across local communities, thus breaking-up local ties, e.g. the boundaries between the constituencies of Sijangkang, Teluk Datuk and Morib. These boundaries were partitioned in a zig-zag way causing a shift of 5,760 electors from Morib and 4,804 electors from Sijangkang to Teluk Datuk. Most of these transferred electors are Chinese and are expected to be in favour of the opposition. Simultaneously, the zig-zag partition also caused a transfer of 7,365 electors (mostly Malays and expected to be pro-BN) from Teluk Datuk to Sijangkang.
The change in composition in these constituencies make Sijangkang and Morib (previously a DAP stronghold) more winnable for UMNO; and
(3) boundaries that combine communities that have very few common interests, e.g. the grouping of Pulau Ketam with the Selat Klang. This urban mainland constituency has no common economic or social interests with the Islanders.
Instead, Pulau Ketam ought to have been grouped with the Pelabuhan Klang constituency as it is an extension of the maritime township of Port Klang.
The re-delineation report
The re-delineation report is, and ought to be recognised for what it truly is: unconstitutional and unrepresentative.
To reiterate, re-delineation is only permitted if it is for the sole purpose of correcting unequal voter representation or unequal voting power.
The EC’s report, however, proposes a diametrically opposite exercise: to further create greater malapportionment and gerrymandering. Such an exercise is not only unconstitutional but illegal.
At the same time, the re-delineation is grossly unrepresentative. The boundaries created by the EC are capable of ensuring that BN wins majority seats in the House even if BN loses the popular vote with less than 40%. This leaves over 60% of Malaysians subservient to the tyranny of the minority.
It appears that the Election Commission is superior to our supreme constitution, and shamelessly so. It is a gross undermining of the rule of law. Just as terrifying, contempt for our democratic right and our right to a democracy has never been so blatant and abominable.
From history, we have learnt that such disregard for our equal and inalienable rights only erodes whatever that is left of our justice, peace and freedom in our country.
We the people should be outraged and disgusted at not just this report, but at every unfair, oppressive law that the Government implements to stay in power.
For the sake of self-preservation, we have a moral obligation, a duty even, to resist the impositions of our tyrannical government. And the only way to resist is to exercise our rights; to defy.
Writer's note: This letter is based on the collective research produced by the Penang Institute.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.