PETALING JAYA: Gerrymandering, through redelineation exercises, is a big gamble as the results can go either way, according to political analyst Wong Chin Huat.
“Redelineation is basically making the gamble bigger. If your luck is good then you win big.
“However, if those voters happen to change their minds, then you lose out on your intended plan. The whole idea of gerrymandering is that you locate your voter to where you want them to be, thinking they will vote for you and, therefore, maximising your gain,” said the political and social analysis section head at the Penang Institute.
He was one of two analysts FMT spoke to about the redelineation exercise undertaken by the Election Commission (EC) and accusations by some of gerrymandering. The other is Khoo Kay Peng.
The EC has fixed public hearings during the year-end holiday period next week in a race to complete the exercise before the 14th general election due by August.
Some critics have called the current EC exercise gerrymandering and say it is aimed at helping the Barisan Nasional remain in power. The EC has denied this.
Gerrymandering means the manipulation of electoral boundaries to favour the ruling party by concentrating the voters that are supportive of the government and splitting supporters of others into multiple constituencies.
Because of gerrymandering, each constituency no longer follows the logical geographical area or the number of people represented by the elected member of parliament or state assembly.
Gerrymandering as a method of “cheating” was a game that could not be controlled, Wong said.
He added: “For example if you intend to cheat by planting votes, if the voters do not come out your plan has failed and the plan will become ineffective, but it would not backfire.
“However if these voters change their minds, or the voter turnout is higher or lower than expected, then you may end up losing or winning more. It increases the unpredictability and uncertainty which makes the gamble bigger.”
Wong said the EC might have enough time to see through the process of redelineation in time for the next general election.
“They would need two to three weeks to finish off the first round of inquiry and then they have to produce the second display (of its review of recommendations for the redelineation) then after that there would be another round of inquiries of one to two weeks.
“They can finish all this by end of February and table it in parliament in March and after the king makes it an order, they can then dissolve parliament and call for the election.”
Independent analyst Khoo Kay Peng, however, said he did not think the EC had enough time to go through all the processes needed before it could come into play.
On accusations that the exercise was mere gerrymandering, he said: “People are talking in assumptions because nothing can actually be seen yet, so this makes it hard to comment on the matter.”
He said historically redelineations were done to benefit the incumbents.
But, he said, redelineation exercises should be done to ensure that the density of voters were fairly distributed.
“It is to ensure that Malaysians get better representation. It is all due to density of voters. There is potential in the future that some constituencies may reach 400,000 to 500,000 to even a million people. It could happen.
“As a representative that would mean a lot more work to do and some people may not have clear representation in parliament.”