Zairil: Why the continued malapportionment of voters?


PETALING JAYA: The Penang Institute has questioned why most of Penang’s state constituencies have been excluded from the Election Commission’s (EC) re-delineation exercise, resulting in the continued malapportionment of voters.

In a statement, Penang Institute Executive Director Zairil Khir Johari, who is a DAP lawmaker, said that the re-delineation exercise was the only opportunity to correct malapportionment and gerrymandering.

These, he said, were two problems that are pervasive in the Malaysian electoral landscape and if these imbalances were not corrected now, it would be an eight-year wait for the next opportunity.

“A quick analysis of the EC’s re-delineation proposal revealed today reveals that malapportionment of state constituencies in Penang has worsened.

“For example, the largest state constituency, N34 Paya Terubong, will have 41,707 voters, while its neighbour and incidentally the smallest state constituency, N23 Air Putih, will have only 12,752 voters.”

The Bukit Bendera MP said this meant the largest constituency in Penang was 3.3 times the smallest.

In the last GE, this disparity, he said, was 2.9 to 1, hence it should have been a priority for the EC to redraw the boundaries and even the number of voters in the two constituencies.

Zairil said Section 2(c) of the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution categorically stipulates that “the number of electors within each constituency in a state ought to be approximately equal except that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and the other disadvantages facing rural constituencies, a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to such constituencies”.

Thus, he said the Penang Institute considered the disparity between the constituencies as unconstitutional.

“Penang Institute urges voters in over-sized constituencies, those with more than 33 per cent of the average constituency, to object to such blatant malapportionment.

“At the same time, the EC should minimise malapportionment in subsequent inquiries if they wish to avoid legal challenges.”

Zairil also urged the EC to display adequate information for voters to meaningfully evaluate the EC’s proposals, so voters could take part in the display, objection and inquiry process.

He added that the EC should list every boundary change and the effect of their proposed recommendations as prescribed in Section 4(a) of the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.