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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Redrawing the Boundaries

The 26 new seats introduced into GE11 include 5 in Sabah (all won by BN), 6 in Johor (all won by BN), 5 in Selangor (all won by BN), 3 in Pahang (all won by BN), 2 in Penang (Karpal Singh became the only exception when he won the new Bukit Gelugor seat) and the remaining 5 new seats distributed over the remaining states (all won by BN) except for Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu (where PAS scored a resounding victory during GE10). This meant that BN won 25 of the new 26 contested seats nationwide.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Hakim Joe

In both 1995 and 1999 when Malaysia held GE9 and GE10 respectively, the total number of parliamentary seats that were contested was 192 and 193. This was increased to 219 in 2004 during GE11 after Badawi took over and subsequently the number rose to 222 in 2008 during GE12.

One of the few reasons for this corresponding increase in constituencies is the population growth in Malaysia. In 1995, Malaysia had 20.14 million citizens. In 2004, the number increased 16.8% to 23.52 million and to 25.27 million or another 7.4% in 2008. As of 2011,
the population of Malaysia stands at 28.73 million, an increase of 13.7% over the 2008 figures.

26 new seats were added in 2004 and another 3 seats in 2008. Will we therefore witness an increase in the number of parliamentary constituencies during GE13?

Let us review the massive increase in parliamentary seats during GE11 (2004) when BN won a record 90.41% of all contested seats under Badawi. It must be noted that the incumbent government only won 63.9% of popular votes but yet won 9 out of every 10 contested seats. In comparison, when BN won a record 65.2% of popular votes in 1995, they only had 84.4% of seats in Parliament.

The 26 new seats introduced into GE11 include 5 in Sabah (all won by BN), 6 in Johor (all won by BN), 5 in Selangor (all won by BN), 3 in Pahang (all won by BN), 2 in Penang (Karpal Singh became the only exception when he won the new Bukit Gelugor seat) and the remaining 5 new seats distributed over the remaining states (all won by BN) except for Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu (where PAS scored a resounding victory during GE10). This meant that BN won 25 of the new 26 contested seats nationwide.

The 3 new seats in 2008 (GE12) were Igan, Sibuti and Limbang and were the result from a border re-demarcation exercise in Sarawak and were all won by BN (PBB). Igan was won uncontested, Sibuti won by a decisive 16% majority and Limbang by a mere 3% majority.

Of the new parliamentary seats introduced since the 2003 delineation exercise by the Elections Commission (EC), BN has won 96.6% of these contested seats or 28 out of the 29 in total. It must also be especially noted that no new parliamentary seats were created in any Malaysian states that showed a swing to the Opposition. Penang had 2 new seats in 2004 because Badawi was from Bayan Lepas in Penang and traditionally a state that produces the PM is a sure-win for the government. Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu had zero new seats because the 1999 elections exhibited a significant swing to PAS.

The trend also shows that the EC possesses a tendency to create new parliamentary seats in pro-BN areas and especially in semi-urban districts. In Kedah, for example, it moved an area that UMNO had won by over 5,000 votes in 1999 into a constituency that PAS had won by 3,000 votes. When this happens, instead of each party having one seat in Parliament, only BN is left with the parliamentary seat, albeit with a reduced majority but since Malaysia practices a “First Past the Post” voting system, a win from just one single vote is identical to a win of over 10,000 votes.

Delineation exercises conducted by the EC are performed every 8 years and the last one was carried out in March 2003, which means that the probability of a new delineation exercise being held on or before March 2012 is extremely high. Malaysian should also take note that if more than 100 individuals object to the delineation, the EC must hold a public enquiry. The law provides that the EC can still go ahead with the exercise but it must now justify why it did not take the objections into account.

The Malaysian government tells us that every citizen has to right to vote and that every registered voter possesses one single vote. What they do not tell you is that every vote does not carry the same weight. Putrajaya with one parliamentary seat only possesses 6,608 registered voters while Kapar in Selangor, with also one parliamentary seat has 112,224 registered voters.

It is therefore an extremely steep uphill battle for Pakatan even before a single vote has been cast as everything is heavily stacked against them. The Opposition requires a minimal 15-point lead on polling day merely to obtain an overall majority of one parliamentary seat.

And that is why we need to give our full support to BERSIH 3.0.

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