Malaysia's Bersih submits 30,000 objections to 'unconstitutional' electoral maps

Malaysia's Bersih submits 30,000 objections to 'unconstitutional' electoral maps

Opposition and berish
Opposition leaders join Bersih 2.0 to submit more than 200 objections (representing more than 30,000 people) to "unconstitutional" redelineation exercises in Selangor. (Photo: Sumisha Naidu)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 and opposition leaders on Tuesday (Feb 13) submitted objections which they say represent more than 30,000 voters unhappy over the "pro-government" redrawing of electoral boundaries in opposition state Selangor.

Redelineation has to be done every eight years, at least. However, Bersih believes the latest proposals for Selangor as well as the rest of the country do not follow the constitutional clause that every seat should be "approximately equal".

It says that in Selangor, for instance, more voters have been packed into federal opposition seats, with fewer voters in constituencies belonging to the ruling coalition. Analysts say this could give Barisan Nasional an advantage given Malaysia's first-past-the-post system.

Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Centre says his centre's analysis shows BN's "prospects improve from not being able to win at all to something close to 50-50" in Selangor, one of only three states currently held by the opposition.

"I feel that this is not just about objecting redelineation per se but it is also a process of protecting the constitution, protecting the democratic processes in Malaysia," Bersih's steering committee chair Maria Chin Abdullah told reporters after handing over the objections.

In a statement issued soon after, the steering committee added that "the role of the EC (election commission) is to ensure fair delineation so that the rakyat (the people) will be able to elect the representative whom they voted for and will not be manipulated due to unfair redelineation, malapportionment and gerrymandering.

"The EC’s continuous inability to solve the matter is indicative of the failure of such weak institutions to uphold the rights of the rakyat and their participation in ensuring clean and fair elections."

The objections Bersih delivered on Tuesday will be presented at hearings by representatives before a final report on national redelineation is given to the Prime Minister for his approval. It then has to pass through Parliament before the King gives the go-ahead for the changes to come into effect.

However, Bersih understands that these hearings will take place over three days and begin not long after this Friday's Chinese New Year break - which it says is too rushed and runs the risk of objectors not being available to represent their views.

"There is no point to the local inquiries if the EC continues to bulldoze through the process without taking action to address gerrymandering and malapportionment, or the entire process will be reduced to nothing more than a facade," it said in the statement.

The Election Commission and the government, however, have maintained that the redelineation process has been done in accordance to the law and without bias.

Source: CNA/ec