Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The truth behind constituency redelineation

12:15PM Jan 28, 2015
By Ng Chak Ngoon

COMMENT It will be very safe to say that the next general election will again be won by BN. It will even be safe to predict that despite any continued swing of votes towards Pakatan Rakyat, BN will regain enough seats in Parliament for a majority exceeding two-thirds, as was its tradition.

The recent Election Commission’s proposal on constituency redelineation for Sarawak shows why the outcome is so predictable. Anyone having a stake in Malaysian politics, and this means every Malaysian, especially opposition politicians, should take note of this.

In 2008, BN had its parliamentary majority of 90.4 percent (198 seats) that it won in 2004 reduced to 63.1 percent (140 seats). The slide continued in 2013 to reach 59.8 percent (133 seats).

However, this slide will now stop, not because BN has reversed its popularity slide but because the Election Commission (EC) can determine the overall outcome of any forthcoming general election through constituency delineation.

In 2013, BN’s votes and seats continued to decline only because the EC had limited leeway in changing electoral boundaries, mostly in the form of “boundary corrections” which amounted to shifting limited numbers of voters between adjacent constituencies.

Now, in the guise of constituency redelineation it can totally overhaul electoral constituencies wherever necessary to reverse the BN’s declining electoral fortunes, even if its voter support continues to decline.

Shoring up BN's hold on state seats

In BN-controlled states, it can even further subdivide BN strongholds into smaller, and therefore more numerous constituencies, to shore up BN’s hold on these states. Most, if not all, state constitutions require only simple majorities in the state assemblies to adopt changes in the numbers of state constituencies.

An increase in parliamentary constituencies is unlikely, now that BN has lost its two-thirds majority and Pakatan's agreement is required.

However, given the present strained relations within Pakatan, it is entirely conceivable that some opposition MPs will cross the floor in the hope that their party will benefit from a constituency increase - or for they themselves to be individually rewarded.

Not only will this be treachery to the voters who voted for them, any promised gains for the defecting political party will be illusory because the EC, in all its history, has never been about being fair.

In the case of Sarawak, the EC’s strategy for BN’s continued electoral victory is clearly shown in its proposed constituency revision for the state. In 2011, there were 979,796 voters in the state.  The latest figure available is 1,109,134, an increase in 13 percent.

While it would be naïve to expect the increase to be spread out more or less evenly in all constituencies, it is hard to justify the reduction in the numbers of voters in some already small constituencies, while the already oversized constituencies continue to be increased, as shown in the accompanying chart.

In this chart, constituency sizes in terms of registered voters are plotted. Constituencies won by BN in 2011 are plotted in light blue and those won by the opposition (mostly Pakatan) in light red. New constituencies as defined by the EC in its latest (2014) proposal are plotted as columns of solid blue or red.

Assuming that voters’ preferences for various political parties remain unchanged between the last Sarawak state election in 2011 and the next to be conducted, it may be justifiable to predict the overall outcome of the next state elections in Sarawak. Thus, the columns of solid colours represent the predicted outcome of the next state elections in Sarawak.

It will be clear that the largest constituencies in terms of the numbers of registered voters, and which have been won or are likely to be won by the opposition, have been allowed to further increase in size while that smaller constituencies that are BN strongholds have been allowed to be divided into even more numerous and smaller constituencies.

From our analysis, we expect BN to increase its number of seats in the next Sarawak election, from the present 55 to 64, while the opposition may be able pick two more to reach 18 (22 percent of the seats) even if it may get 35 percent of the total votes.

Overall outcome is predetermined

The point being made here is that the outcome of the state election in Sarawak, or the general election in Malaysia, is not decided by the voting public but by the EC. Therefore, its overall outcome is already predetermined even before the first vote is cast.

Going to vote under such a system merely lends credibility to a grossly unfair system designed by EC for BN to win. The only option open to Malaysians hoping for a change of government and a better future for our next generation is to protest against and object to such a charade.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has promised to make Malaysia the best democracy in the world.

But Najib can only succeed if he means it to be in the likes of other similarly “democratic” countries, such the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea or Democratic Republic of the Congo.

NG CHAK NGOON is a retiree, but remains an activist with Tindak Malaysia, the political-social-economic forum that works to  educate Malaysians.

~ Malaysiakini

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