Rearranging seats to BN’s advantage
The 13th general election (GE13) has come and gone and the Barisan Nasional coalition still formed the government of the day even though the opposition Pakatan Rakyat garnered the most number of votes nationwide. Sounds pretty unfair, isn’t it?
Most of us would be asking, how could this have happened and what went wrong? Has the BN hijacked the victory from Pakatan? And why is BN still the government of the day after its worst ever showing in 2008 and now again in 2013?
The answer is very clear. The BN government through its Election Commission (EC) has resorted to a wide range of gerrymandering for the past decades in order to ensure its grip on Putrajaya would not loosen.
What is actually gerrymandering all about? Gerrymandering is about creating more seats by way of redelineation of all pro-BN parliamentary and state constituencies, even if the total numbers of voters in such constituencies were reportedly very few.
The arrangement of unequal constituency sizes had in fact brought BN back to power continuously and today we would consider the current BN position in Putrajaya as a minority rather than a majority government due to the fact that its total number of votes obtained are very much lower than Pakatan’s.
Just look at most of the constituencies won by BN. These constituencies are mostly very small while the Pakatan-held constituencies are very big.
For example, the BN-held Putrajaya parliamentary seat only has about 15,790 registered voters, while the PKR-held Kapar parliamentary seat has a total bloated number of registered voters at 144,156. Further examples are the Labis parliamentary seat (BN-MCA) which has 37,710 voters, while the Gelang Patah parliamentary seat (DAP) has about 106,726 voters. The same with Langkawi (BN) with only 37,530 voters while Kuala Kedah (PAS) has 95,327 voters in its electoral list.
And if we were to review the rest of the constituencies that are won by BN and those held by Pakatan, all of us would be surprised to find that most of the variations could reach more than 200%. That is the disproportionality we are all talking about. In the recently-concluded GE13, the BN won 133 out of 222 parliamentary seats with about 48.6% votes received, while Pakatan won 89 parliamentary seats with a gain of 51.4% votes.
For the past few decades, the EC has not been playing its roles fairly in the redelineation of electoral boundaries. And if we look at the redelineation exercise between July 2002 and May 2003, it shows that the determination of new electoral boundaries has clearly favoured BN and as a result, it helped BN survive the 2008 onslaught (GE12) with a simple majority and it has managed to hold on to power then.
EC has been part of the plot with BN in the restructuring and creation of new electoral boundaries in order to create more constituencies that would strengthen BN’s electoral position.
It is clear that EC officials had blatantly acted in the interests of BN instead of putting the people on top of their agenda. Where are the principles of the EC and its officials? None, they are guided politically by BN all this while.
Apart from that, the position of the EC itself is not independent as repeatedly claimed. EC is under the direct jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department whose boss is none other than the prime minister himself, who is also the BN chairman and Umno president.
In name, the EC chairman, his deputy, secretary and commissioners are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong but in reality, these men are recommended and picked by the BN government and most of them are either serving or retired civil servants who had shown utmost loyalty to the BN government. They do not possess any direct experience or exposure at all in running general elections based on the principles of being a neutral authority.
However, there is still hope for improvement with the entire process coming under intense scrutiny. In the GE13, BN only won with a simple majority while Pakatan has increased its presence in Parliament.
Hence, in this round of redelineation, the EC ought to be cautious in redrawing electoral boundaries. No doubt only a simple majority is required for any alteration of the constituencies put forward by EC. But to create a new constituency, Article 46 of the Federal Constitution would have to be amended. This would require a two-thirds majority, which the BN does not have.
Viktor Wong, a socio-political analyst, wants a better Malaysia, one that is run by a clean government that respects the people, human rights and the rule of law, that does not politicise issues of race, religion and the rulers.