Malay Press: Redelineation has to happen, but politics gets in the way

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KUALA LUMPUR (June 24): Malaysia needs to create at least 25 more parliamentary seats to cope with rapidly increasing voter numbers but political disagreement makes the process of redelineation unlikely. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Datuk Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat said the time is right for additional parliamentary and state constituencies to cope with the surge in new registered voters over the last decade and anticipated future growth. This is to “balance out” the increase in registered voters which amounts to almost seven million new voters in the last ten years, Samsul said in an interview with Sinar Harian newspaper. As such, Samsul estimates that there needs to be at least 25 more parliamentary seats and a corresponding additional 60 to 70 state seats. There are currently 222 parliamentary constituencies and 505 state constituencies. “It is important that redelineation takes place but it cannot happen since this requires approval from two-thirds of the Dewan Rakyat”, Samsul told the Malay daily newspaper. The last redelineation exercise took place in April 2003, at a time when the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) still enjoyed two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat to approve the exercise. The redelineation exercise created 25 more parliamentary constituencies and 63 new state constituencies. Samsul opined that any redelineation exercise, if it indeed takes place, is very likely to add more than 25 parliamentary seats. This is to take into account an additional three million new voters expected to register before the 14th general election, Samsul said. Already, the recent 13th general election saw about 3.2 million new voters which brought the total voters to 13.2 million. There is a large size discrepancy between the largest parliamentary constituencies and the smallest. The Kapar parliamentary seat has almost 150,000 registered voters while the smallest, Putrajaya, has about 16,000. According to Samsul, BN needs to build consensus with Pakatan Rakyat in order to push through a redelineation exercise to create more constituencies. “If there are at least 15 Pakatan members of parliament that agree, then the redelineation can happen. “But this is difficult to come by given the current political scenario,” said the associate professor in political science. Support from two-thirds of the Dewan Rakyat is needed to create more constituencies but altering present boundaries merely requires a simple majority. Pakatan has resisted any redelineation exercise due to fears of gerrymandering to benefit the ruling government. Over the weekend, Bersih 2.0 co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan urged the Election Commission to not proceed with redelineation as the exercise will be based on the current electoral roll which civil society maintains is “flawed”.