Thursday, December 21, 2017

Worst fears about EC redelineation may not come to pass, says analyst

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The worst instances of gerrymandering and malapportionment under the Election Commission’s redelineation exercise may not materialise, according to Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Huat.

He said such manipulations are a “double-edged sword,” and would not necessarily be in the EC’s final proposal.

“Delineational manipulations are a double-edged sword. They don't guarantee victory but they amplify the gains or loses.

“It would make it easier for BN to win two-thirds if it retains a substantial part of its support base. However, if enough voters swing, BN might be worse hit,” Wong (photo) told Malaysiakini yesterday.

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had earlier granted a stay on the EC’s over 100 local inquiries in Selangor, which stalled the redelineation process. This is pending the Selangor government’s challenge against the redelineation exercise at the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal, however, overturned the stay on Monday. This allows the EC to continue with the local inquiries in Selangor and the rest of the redelineation process while the Selangor government’s legal challenge is still tied up in court.

According to a Sin Chew Daily report on Tuesday, sources had claimed that a special parliamentary sitting may be held in January next year to pass the EC’s recommendations in order to pave way for the parliament to be dissolved in late February.

However, Wong said the EC may take more than two months to finish the redelineation process in Selangor, making the January special sitting unlikely.

If the EC makes changes to its first proposal of electoral boundaries, he explained, it will then need to accommodate a public display of the amended boundaries, a 30-day objection period, and in the case of objections, subsequent rounds of local inquiries.

“This means it's possible for the new maps to be tabled to and approved by the parliament in March for it to be used in GE14 if it is called after the parliamentary session,” he said.

Malapportionment and gerrymandering

The EC’s ongoing redelineation exercise has been marred by allegations of malapportionment and gerrymandering, with formal objections filed in that regard.

Malapportionment refers to when there are vast differences between the number of voters in each constituency – which are meant to be approximately of equal size – which is regarded as unfair because it dilutes the value of the votes cast in larger constituencies.

Gerrymandering, meanwhile, involves concentrating the supporters of one party in a handful of constituencies and breaking up supporters of another into multiple constituencies – which allows one party to win despite having fewer votes.

The Federal Constitution stipulates that the EC must hold inquiries to consider objections from voters in affected areas.

If the EC makes revisions to its boundaries, it would need to repeat the process of publishing a notice of these changes, allowing a 30-day objection period, and hold a second round of local inquiries. No more than two rounds of local enquires are to be held.

Once completed, the EC will submit its recommendations – along with a draft order to adopt it with or without modifications – to the prime minister, who will table it in the Dewan Rakyat in turn.

These recommendations only require a simple majority to pass. If these are voted down, however, the prime minister may make amendments with consultation from the EC before tabling it in the Dewan Rakyat again.

Skipping ahead

Wong pointed out, however, that the constitution also allows the EC to simply adopt its first proposal in full, and skip having to repeat the whole process.

“The EC can decide to not make any changes to its first proposal and skip the second display.

“This is not only unprecedented, but with over 100 rejections in Selangor, to say all the objections are invalid would be a hard slap on public opinion,” he said.

When asked about the options the Pakatan Harapan-led Selangor government has to challenge the new electoral boundaries, Wong suggested that the coalition make it an election issue, and urge voters to punish those who stand to gain from the redrawn boundaries.

“Democracy is about voters choosing politicians.

“But gerrymandering turns the tables around, allowing favoured politicians to choose their voters and seal their victory, even before votes are cast,” he said.
~ Malaysiakini


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