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You have a say in review of election boundaries

October 6, 2014

All it takes is 100 aware citizens to ensure that the boundaries of a constituency are correctly drawn.

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by Puthan Perumal

general electionLast May, there appeared online an interesting article entitled “Do-or-die time with re-delineation exercise.” The writer, Thomas Fann, had this to say:

“The Election Commission (EC) will be conducting its sixth re-delineation exercise of electoral boundaries soon and there can be little dispute that this would be the mother of all re-delineation exercises in Malaysia.

“The survival of the ruling coalition depends on it and whether the opposition will finally become the government of the day depends on how our electoral boundaries are redrawn.”

One question that all of us Malaysians ask ourselves is this: how do I get involved in the process of redrawing electoral boundaries?

Let us get one thing clear in our minds. Contrary to popular belief, we do have a say in the review of the division of constituencies.

Most of us are perhaps not aware of, or have simply overlooked, the importance of the 13th Schedule to the Federal Constitution.

Article 113 (2)(i) states that the Election Commission shall, from time to time, as it deems necessary, review the division of the federation and the states into constituencies and recommend such changes therein as it thinks necessary in order to comply with the provisions contained in the Thirteenth Schedule.

What is this 13th Schedule and why is it so important?

The 13th Schedule, firstly, sets out the principles that must be followed by the Election Commission in reviewing the division of constituencies. The Election Commission must ensure the following:

  1. All electors must be given reasonable convenient opportunities of going to the polls;
  2. Constituencies are not divided in such a way that they cross state boundaries;
  3. State constituencies do not cross over the boundaries of the federal constituencies;
  4. Within the constituencies, there must be available administrative facilities for the establishment of necessary registration and polling machines;
  5. Subject to the difficulty of reaching electors in country districts and disadvantages facing rural constituencies, the number of electors within each constituency ought to be approximately equal; and
  6. Local ties must be maintained.

The overriding principle that must be at the forefront of the Election Commission’s mind is that the number of electors within each constituency ought to be approximately equal. The word “approximate” is used simply because it would be practically impossible to divide the electors in each constituency equally. So there must be some degree of flexibility given in favour of the Election Commission in applying that principle.

This principle is important because one vote should carry with it one value of equal importance in deciding the government of the day. My vote should be as important and as valuable as yours in determining the government of the day.

Therefore, it is your duty as a Malaysian to get involved and find out what is the number of electors in your constituency and compare it to the numbers of electors in your neighbouring and surrounding constituencies. This is very important. They should be approximately equal. If they are not, then there is a defect in the manner in which the Election Commission is reviewing the division of constituencies. It means that your vote is not as valuable as others. It is as simple as that.

When this is apparent, what do we do?

Let us then go back to the 13th Schedule because the answer is there. It will then become clear how a mere 100 citizens can change the landscape of electoral boundaries.

The 13th Schedule goes on to state the following:

1. If the Election Commission is of the opinion that a review of the division of any constituency is recommended, it shall publish a notice of that proposed recommendation in the Gazette and in at least one newspaper circulating in that particular constituency;

2. Upon this publication of the notice, if the Election Commission receives any written objection to the proposed recommendations from either

a) the state government or any local authority of the effected constituencies; or

b) a body of one hundred or more persons whose names are shown on the current electoral rolls of the constituencies in question,

then the Election Commission must cause a local enquiry to be held in respect of those constituencies, and such an enquiry shall have all the powers conferred by the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950.

3. If the findings in the enquiry are not in favour of the proposed recommendations, it would then be the duty of the Election Commission to revise the recommendations until they are satisfactory to all parties involved.

As pointed out, a mere 100 citizens who are aware of theirs rights are very much capable of bringing about change in the way electoral boundaries are redrawn. So, it is important to be aware of the fact that we do have a role and part in determining the division of our constituencies.

Puthan Perumal is an FMT reader.


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