Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gerrymandering and Malapportionment in Malaysia

Najib Razak cannot afford to lose power. The stakes are just too high for him. And he knows it. 

Besides, Najib is under immense pressure to improve on BN’s disastrous election outing in 2013, when they lost the popular vote. 

And if there is a chance that he may just lose in GE14 – what can he do? 

The answer is starkly simple. Instruct fellow conspirators to start cheating. 

Actually, this has already taken place, even before the election is called – through the redrawing of electoral boundaries by the Election Commission. 

This is one job it is doing exceedingly well. We all know it as gerrymandering and malapportionment. 

In case you didn’t know, the EC is placed directly under the Prime Minister’s Department – and therefore, it simply cannot do its work freely and independently. Its DNA won’t allow it. 

From what I see so far, this delineation exercise is not addressing the issue of an imbalanced distribution of voters – but rather, it makes the situation worse by re-arranging blocs of opposition-inclined voters (urban-based) into opposition-held seats to create super-constituencies and also re-shaping constituencies to have more distinct ethnic majorities (Malay versus non-Malays). 

This is getting to be too much! 

Take a look at the Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentary seat – to be renamed Damansara. It will be boosted to over 150,000 voters, from 2013’s number of around 85,000 voters. 

[Compare this to Putrajaya which is held by UMNO’s Tengku Adnan Mansor and which has around 18,000 voters or just 12 percent of what the Damansara seat would have]. 

And the Sri Andalas state seat in Selangor will lose about 25,000 Indian and Chinese voters and see an injection of 14,268 additional voters from Malay areas. So from a 60-40 percent (non-Malay-Malay) mixed seat, it has become an about 85 percent Malay-majority seat. 

In case, you didn’t realize, opposition supporters and even minorities are being progressively disenfranchised with their votes counting for less and less with each re-delineation exercise. 

Of course, re-organizing the constituencies favour UMNO most of all – a sure way to ensure Najib wins a third term in an election that must be held latest by August 2018 – after the automatic dissolution of Parliament on June 24. 

Electoral boundaries were last shifted nationwide in 2003, and even then, the undefeated BN coalition was accused of manipulating the process. 

The EC is now seeking to redraw boundaries for more than 120 parliamentary seats, more than half of the 222 seats in total. 

And from this delineation exercise, BN stand to gain between eight and 10 additional seats – when they are approved and assuming voters vote the same way they did in the last polls. 

It could gain even more as some opposition-held seats have become marginal or more Malay – the ethnic majority which UMNO, the dominant party in BN, have been wooing. 

As former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad said of the new and redrawn maps: “This is going to be a very racial election". 

At the speed with which the EC is working seems to allude that it is following Najib’s election calendar.

Malaysians believe the EC has been compromised. To voice their dissatisfaction – Malaysians have been filing objections and taking up cases in court. 

In Selangor alone, a total of 200 objections were made. One objection needs a minimum of 100 signatures. 

So far, more than 30,000 signatures were collected. And handed over to the EC on Tuesday. 

Bersih 2.0 and Pakatan Harapan, in forwarding the objections, urged the EC not to rush the exercise but to carefully implement it so that fairness is achieved. 

Already, the unfairness is clearly obvious. 

For example, N01 Sabak has 15,033 voters while N29 Seri Serdang has 74,563. No prizes for guessing which is the Malay majority constituency and which is not.

So, Najib can thump his chest about a clean election, but fraud is already happening right under our noses. 

Of course, the above assumes that the Malays, more so those from the rural and semi-rural areas, do not want change and that they are solidly backing Najib and UMNO, come what may – even when the corruption scandals are weighing down heavily on my beloved prime minister. 

But if this assumption is wrong – then we will see change in GE14. 

The country can be saved.

That's why every vote counts!

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