Redelineation has created race-dominant constituencies, says Bersih

Bersih claims opposition voters have been packed into already large constituencies.

PETALING JAYA: The Election Commission’s (EC) redelineation of electoral boundaries has failed to ensure the number of voters in constituencies is “approximately equal”, as required under the law, said electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0.

Bersih’s outreach officer Chan Tsu Chong said the electoral reform group found the EC had instead amplified the ratio between the smallest and largest parliamentary constituencies.

“With the exception of Perlis, Terengganu, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, ratios in Selangor have increased from 3.95 to 4.05, Johor from 3.05 to 3.17 and Melaka from 2.17 to 2.50.

“This shows the EC’s utter contempt for the Federal Constitution,” he said today at Bersih’s headquarters.

He said the EC had also worsened malapportionment by creating super-sized constituencies.

“After the redelineation, the top 10 largest parliamentary constituencies range from 108,156 voters to 150,439 voters, much larger than their states’ average.

“These constituencies are created by packing in predominantly opposition voters into already large constituencies.

“A blatant example would be P106 Petaling Jaya Utara. Before the redelineation, it had 84,456 voters; after redelineation it has 150,439 voters. That is adding 65,983 voters into the constituency.

“When we asked why the EC did that, their response was to ease voters’ voting process on polling day.

“Petaling Jaya Utara is an urban areaa and we all know it is well connected. This ‘excuse’ just doesn’t make sense.”

Chan cited another example where the EC had transferred five polling districts, with strong opposition support, out from P137 Bukit Katil (a marginal constituency) and packed them into P138 Kota Melaka (an opposition stronghold).

“This is an attempt to sway electoral results in marginal seats by transferring polling districts between constituencies, based on the voting pattern.

“Based on a re-simulation of the 13th general election (GE13) voting pattern, with the new boundaries after redelineation, Bukit Katil will switch from an opposition constituency into a Barisan Nasional (BN) constituency.

“Although BN does not have a 100% chance of winning in Bukit Katil, it has made the contest very much tougher than GE13,” said Chan.

Results before redelineation in Bukit Katil showed that the PKR incumbent Shamsul Iskandar won by 5,447 votes, but after redelineation, a simulation exercise showed that the opposition will end up with only a 1,242-vote majority (if it wins).

“I am from Melaka. Ask anyone in Melaka and they will tell you that moving people from Bukit Katil into Kota Melaka will not help improve local ties as both the constituencies are not connected in any way.”

It is alleged that similar manipulations are also noticeable in Perak, Selangor and Johor.

Malay-dominant, Chinese-dominant constituencies

Meanwhile, political and social analyst Wong Chin Huat pointed out that EC chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah had in March said ethnicity was one of the criteria considered during redelineation.

“What Hashim did was to disregard the conditions for redelineation in the Federal Constitution and this has resulted in the transformation of constituencies into race-dominant constituencies.

“Fifteen parliamentary constituencies, which were previously mixed constituencies, have transformed into eight Malay-dominant and seven Chinese-dominant constituencies.

“This is noticeable in P74 Lumut and P68 Beruas, where Chinese voters have been taken out of Lumut and added into Beruas (which already has a high percentage of Chinese voters),” said Wong.

Wong added that if this was done to ease the voting process on polling day, the geographical location of Beruas did not make sense for those living in Lumut.

“Beruas is about 45 minutes away from Lumut. How is it helpful by carrying out the redelineation exercise? It will only make it more inconvenient for voters,” he said.

Acting Bersih 2.0 chairman Shahrul Aman Mohd Saari added that ethnicity gerrymandering might worsen the racial divide.

“The redelineation exercise is supposed to reduce the gap between races to encourage unity. The EC had done nothing but widened the gap.

“If anyone remembers the May 13 incident, it happened due to racial tension.

“Constituencies that are dominated by a single race, created due to ethnicity gerrymandering, may reignite such racial tension.”

The May 13, 1969 riots occurred in the aftermath of the 1969 general election when the opposition parties made gains at the expense of the ruling coalition, the then Alliance Party.

Shahrul cautioned that such an incident might happen again because of the racial imbalance caused by the redelineation.

The EC had on March 9 submitted its redelineation report to Prime Minister Najib Razak without completing hearings on objections to the changes at its local inquiries.

Bersih had then urged the EC’s redelineation report to be withdrawn from the Dewan Rakyat until all legal challenges against the redelineation exercise were decided by the courts.

The group also submitted a memorandum to Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia and the prime minister last Wednesday.

However, the Dewan Rakyat passed the redelineation of electoral boundaries for peninsular states and it has been gazetted as law.

Withdraw redelineation report, Bersih tells Pandikar