Dewan Rakyat passes redelineation report

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 29, 2018.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat yesterday passed the Election Commission’s (EC) redelineation report with 129 parliamentarians voting in favour and 80 voting against it.

Opposition lawmakers, who had been critical of the way the redelineation of electoral boundaries was undertaken, carried placards bearing the words “Bangkit Rakyat”, “Hentikan Penipuan (People Arise, Stop the Cheating)” when the results were announced.

The report, which affects 98 out of the 165 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia, was earlier tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Seven lawmakers from each side of the political divide were allowed to debate the report for 10 minutes each. Opposition parliamentarians claimed that the redelineation exercise encouraged ethnic polarisation and was gerrymandered in favour of Barisan Nasional (BN).

They also pointed to the disproportion in voter count per constituency, and accused the EC of failing to take into consideration all objections from voter representatives prior to the drafting of the final report.

“We feel that today (yesterday) is a sad day because the redelineation report was bulldozed to be passed,” said opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail after the vote.

“This seems to be in favour of the people in power. But we are hopeful and we pray that Malaysian voters are sensitised [and will] open their eyes and vote for a change [in the upcoming polls],” she said.

PAS secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan questioned the process of debating the EC report this time around.

“The last time a redelineation report was tabled, we were given four days to debate,” he said. “Now we are given a quarter of a day.”

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who wound up the debate, said the power to table the final report falls under the discretion of the prime minister as provided for by the Federal Constitution.

“So what was done was in line with the constitution,” said Ahmad Zahid, adding that the EC had taken into account all the grouses raised by various parties and had dealt with them accordingly.

Najib, when tabling the report, said the government did not influence the EC in the redelineation exercise.

“There were several recommendations made by the EC which were not agreed upon by several parties, including those from the government itself,” he said. “But the government did not interfere or influence the EC. We respect the EC’s decision for the sake of everyone, the people and the country.”

He said the last redelineation [exercise] took place in 2003, and this report was used during the 11th general election (GE11) in 2004, GE12 in 2008 and GE13 in 2013.

Recommendations in the EC report would be implemented for GE14, which is expected to be held in a few weeks.

The total number of parliamentary seats stays at 222 and state seats at 587, as the EC has recommended that there be no change in the number of constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.

In GE13, BN won 85 seats to the opposition’s 80 in Peninsular Malaysia. According to analysts, if the boundaries approved yesterday had been used in 2013, BN would have secured 93 seats and the opposition 72. According to the EC report, the latest review was carried out using electoral rolls verified and gazetted on May 13 and Sept 6, 2016 which saw the total number of electorates in Peninsular Malaysia at 11,379,352, an increase of 36% compared with 8,347,107 in the electoral rolls verified on Dec 27, 2001.

Despite the addition of some 3.03 million registered voters, the EC did not recommend any addition to the number of parliamentary seats in this report, unlike in each of the previous five redelineation exercises.

Johor retained the biggest number of parliamentary seats in the peninsula with 26 seats comprising 1.65 million voters, more than the 22 parliamentary seats in Selangor, which has 2.08 million voters.

Seven out of the 10 constituencies with the biggest voter count are in Selangor, the largest being Damansara with 150,439 voters. Damansara is the renamed Petaling Jaya Utara seat, with the Bukit Lanjan state seat (currently under Subang) added to it.