Monday, January 12, 2015

In 2015 delimitation, is Najib going for 'nuclear'?

10:23AM Jan 12, 2015
By Ong Kian Ming

MP SPEAKS The map for the proposed new seats in Sarawak was publicly displayed on Monday, Jan 5, 2015. The timing of this display - before the display of the Sabah and peninsular Malaysia maps - and the proposed changes - 11 proposed new state seats without a single new parliament seat - was unprecedented.

The Sarawak delimitation exercise also points to a more worrying possibility - that Najib will exercise a ‘nuclear’ option for the upcoming peninsular Malaysia and Sabah delimitation exercise.

What exactly is this nuclear option? That no parliament seats would be added in either peninsular Malaysia or Sabah, that state seats would be added only in the states where the BN enjoys a two-thirds majority in the state legislature and boundaries would be redrawn in BN’s favour in states with no additional parliament and state seats.

Past four delimitations  


In the four delimitation exercises since 1974, additional parliament seats have been proposed and added in each. From the initial 144 parliament and 362 state seats, a total of 78 parliament and 214 state seats have been added to arrive at the 222 parliament and 572 state seats we have today (not including the 11 proposed new seats in Sarawak)



For parliament seats to be added, Article 46 of the federal constitution, which states the number of parliament seats by each state, needs to be amended. This requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which has been enjoyed by the BN in each of the past four delimitation exercises.

At the state level, the state constitution needs to be amended in order to increase the number of state seats. [1] Given that the BN has enjoyed a two-thirds parliamentary majority in each of the past four delimitation exercises, amending the constitution in order to increase the number of parliament seats was never an issue.

But there have been instances in the past delimitation exercises when no parliament or state seats were added in certain states because of political reasons.

For example, no parliament and state seats were added in Penang in the 1994 delimitation exercise because the BN only won 55 percent of the state seats in the 1990 state elections and would have encountered opposition resistance to amend the state constitution to increase the number of state seats.

Similarly, no parliament and state seats were added in Sabah in the 1994 delimitation exercise because the BN lost control of the Sabah state legislature after the last minute withdrawal of the PBS from the BN just prior to the 1990 general elections.

No new seats in weak areas  

In the same vein, no parliament and state seats were added in Kedah in the 2003 delimitation exercise because the BN lost its two-thirds majority in the state legislature after losing the Lunas state seat by election in 2000.

In the same delimitation exercise, no parliament and state seats were added in Terengganu, where the BN had lost all but four out of 32 state seats and eight out of eight parliament seats in the 1999 general elections.

It made political sense for the BN not to want to have the EC add any seats in these states since the chances of the opposition winning the new seats are higher in opposition controlled states.

Even in cases where seats are added in opposition-controlled states, they are added in areas with greater BN support.

For example, a new parliament seat was added in the district of Jeli in the 1994 delimitation exercise. It was one of the two parliament seats won by BN in Kelantan in the 1995 general elections.

In the 2003 delimitation exercise, two state seats were added in Kelantan, one in Jeli and one in Gua Musang, both of which were won by BN in the 2004 general election. [2]

The fact that there were no parliaments seats added in Sarawak is a very good indication that the yet to be revealed peninsular Malaysia and Sabah delimitation plans will also not include parliamentary seat increases.

Footnotes:

[1] Although in the case of Sarawak, the number of state seats is not listed in the state constitution but in a state ordinance.

Hence, only a simple majority in the state legislature is needed to amend the state ordinance to change the number of state seats, which was what occurred in the state legislature in Sarawak on Nov 11, 2014.

[2] In a conversation with a Kelantan PAS leader who was involved in both delimitation exercise, the implicit ‘threat’ towards the Kelantan state government was that if it did not accept the changes proposed by the EC, a more drastic redrawing of the state and parliament boundaries that would be even more disadvantageous to PAS would be proposed, without any increase parliament or state seats.


Tomorrow Part 2: Why BN needs not increase parliament seats



ONG KIAN MING is the DAP MP for Serdang and the DAP representative in the Pakatan Rakyat delimitation exercises committee.
~ Malaysiakini

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