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Malaysia The Mother Of All Electoral Abuses

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
This article is necessary background to the next article to explain the recent 2013 election outcome.

The mother of all electoral abuses

Lim Hong Hai

See graphs and charts at this link

COMMENT I refer to the Malaysiakini report, ‘A retiree exposes gerrymandering in Sabah', and applaud Ng Chak Ngoon for his contribution, especially his graph on the unequal numbers of voters among electoral constituencies.

The delineation of constituencies has long been considered unfair because of two practices that are generally regarded as electoral abuses, namely mal-apportionment and gerrymandering.

Both these practices can have important effects under the first-past-the-post electoral system, which we use in Malaysia.

What Ng has so graphically exposed (chart below) is mal-apportionment or inequality among constituency electorates, rather than gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the drawing of constituency boundaries for partisan advantage and it can be done even in the absence of mal-apportionment.

Starting with the first constituency revision in 1974, various scholars have noted signs of gerrymandering but the more important source of unfairness in electoral constituencies is mal-apportionment.

The question now is: what can be done to reduce mal-apportionment and gerrymandering in constituency delineation? Three things seem important.

Reform the EC

First, strengthen the independence of the Election Commission (EC), the delineator at first instance. This can be done mainly by improving the process of appointing commission members, just as we have recently done with respect to judges.

The EC should also use its existing constitutional power to appoint its main administrative officials instead of totally relying on federal civil servants.

Second, the EC should report its recommendations on revised constituencies directly to Parliament for approval.

At present, the EC reports to the prime minister, who can then make changes to the commission's recommendations before tabling them in Parliament, and also thereafter, in order to secure their approval by Parliament.

This procedure does not inspire confidence that constituencies will be fairly delineated. An added measure is to require more than the present simple majority (in effect, the support of the ruling party alone) in Parliament for the approval of revised constituencies.

For example, such changes should require concurrent majorities by government and opposition or at least a two-thirds majority of Parliament.

Third, restore the clear numerical limits to mal-apportionment that have been removed from the federal constitution. Some background is useful for understanding the suggested measures.

To safeguard the fundamental principle of approximately equal electorates among constituencies, differences in constituency electorates were limited to 15 percent above or below the average constituency electorate at the time of Merdeka.

No more limits

These clear numerical limits were relaxed in 1962 and then removed in 1973 by constitutional amendments: the federal constitution now allows, rather imprecisely, "a measure of weightage" in favour of rural constituencies.

With clear limits removed, rural weightage has been liberally applied by the EC, even though communications and other disadvantages of rural areas that form the justification for rural weightage have undoubtedly and significantly declined since Merdeka.

Indeed, constituency electorates are now so unequal as to make one wonder whether the fundamental requirement of approximate equality is still being complied with.

For peninsular Malaysia, therefore, it is not unreasonable to restore the limits to mal-apportionment that existed at the time of Merdeka, that is, 15 percent above or below the average constituency electorate.

Conditions in Sabah and Sarawak would justify wider limits than those for peninsular Malaysia. We may restore the limits that were in force when Malaysia was formed.

Those limits allow the largest constituency to have twice the number of electors as the smallest constituency, this is, one-third or 33 percent above or below the average constituency in each state.

This would still represent a considerable reduction from present levels of mal-apportionment in the two states.

Largely, because of mal-apportionment, the practice of constituency delineation is the major cause of unfairness in our electoral system. It causes more unfairness than deficiencies in voter registration and campaign rules.

Indeed, correcting unfairness in constituency delineation is the acid test for the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform and the government.

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
This article describes further how gerrymandering determined the outcome of the recent 2013 Malaysian election.

A retiree exposes gerrymandering in Sabah

Nigel Aw

Further charts and graphs describing vote apportionment at this link http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/182546

A retiree arrested the attention of opposition members at the public hearing by the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform, when he told them to forget about marching to Putrajaya under the current electoral system.

ng chak ngoon complain to psc 271111Armed with printouts of his presentation slides, Ng Chak Ngoon (right) who described himself as a retiree, presented the panel with a graph that showed 222 lines with every one being taller than the other as it progressed.

The graph, said Ng at the hearing in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, which saw several others testifying, was plotted against the population size of all the constituencies in ascending order for the 2008 general election.

"All on the left (in blue) are won by BN, on the right (in red) are all won by the opposition. The BN constituencies are very small and the opposition constituencies are very big. So what is happening here?

"It's not by chance that all the people in big constituencies like the opposition and all those people in the small constituencies like BN. I would think there is a design here for the Election Commission (EC) to sub-divide all the BN areas into smaller areas to increase their number of MPs," he said.

Ng added that the smallest constituency, BN-held Putrajaya only had 6,008 voters but Opposition-held Kapar had a staggering 112,224 voters, 17 times more than Putrajaya.

‘Kapar can have 17 MPs'

"If we break down Kapar to the size of Putrajaya, you would have 17 MPs from Kapar instead of just one."

If all the seats are made into equal size, Ng added, the last general election would yield a result where BN and Pakatan Rakyat would only have a difference of seven seats in Parliament as opposed to the actual results of 140 to 82 seats.

He further estimated that if a party relied on all the small seats to win power, it would only require 15.4 percent of the total votes to form a majority in Parliament.

"If the opposition thinks they can march to Putrajaya, forget about it."

At this point, PSC member Anthony Loke who is DAP's Rasah MP quipped: "Very demoralising."

Explaining further, Ng said the smallest constituency in Malaysia was 13 percent of the national average while the largest was 288 percent, in contrast to the UK's which smallest and largest constituency are 77 percent and 153 percent of the national average respectively.

"If the EC is sincere, it should redraw all the constituencies, this is not gerrymandering, this is outright cheating."

PSC member Dr Hatta Ramli later concurred, pointing out that the Baling parliamentary constituency, supposedly a rural seat, had an unusually large number of constituents at around 70,000.

"This was because PAS has won the seat before," said Hatta, who then asked if Ng thought this was ethical.

"Unethical is a mild word, Can I answer outside?" replied Ng in reference to parliamentary rules that require members in the hearing to abide by appropriate language.

State by state breakdown

Ng later proceeded to present similar graphs with a state by state breakdown at which PSC member Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said: "Can you rate Kangar?", in reference to his own constituency.

mca disciplinary board 230210 fong chan onn"If you have Negeri Sembilan's, I would like to see my chances of winning," added Loke.

At this, Ng quipped: "I'll have to charge you for consultancy."

When asked by PSC member Fong Chan Onn (right) on how the panel can accommodate the increase of seats for Sabah and Sarawak to meet the Malaysian Federation agreement of 34 percent into his recommendations, Eng replied: "What is your objective?

"To win the election or to have an equitable dispersion of votes? If these are conflicting desires, obviously we cannot come to a compromise. BN has to answer that question, not me, I'm a retired man."