Be fair about sizes of rural seats, says Chandra

Chandra Muzaffar says rural areas have more clout because of geography and population patterns.

PETALING JAYA: Urban voters often complain about their vote being of less worth than rural ones, but social critic and public intellectual Chandra Muzaffar points out that rural weightage was written into the Constitution and would always be part of the system.

However, the principle should not be abused. “There must be limits and balance,” said Chandra, who is chairman of Yayasan 1Malaysia.

“The difference cannot be too glaring and in the recent redelineation exercise, you can see this in the creation of supermajority urban constituencies.”

Chandra said Malaysia’s geography and population pattern was the reason for rural areas being given more weight.

“They are underrepresented in terms of the ability of rural voters to participate in the democratic process,” he told FMT, because of factors such as the immense size of rural areas, and limited accessibility and infrastructure.

“You will find some constituencies only have 20,000 people, but those 20,000 people are spread over a large area. In some urban seats, you may find 100,000 voters concentrated in a smaller area. But because they are in a smaller area, it is easier for people to access their elected representative.”

Opposition politicians have often criticised the way Malaysia’s electoral districts are drawn up, accusing the government of gerrymandering and deliberate malapportionment.

On social media, numerous graphs and charts have been posted which claim to show how Barisan Nasional won the last general election in 2013, despite losing the popular vote.

Among the critics is DAP’s Ong Kian Meng, who is being fielded in Bangi, which now contains 178,790 voters, the most of any parliamentary constituency in Peninsular Malaysia.

He said on Tuesday that the Election Commission had diluted the worth of urban votes. He said the 10 largest seats were won by the opposition, and the 10 smallest to Barisan Nasional, which he said violated the principle of one man one vote.

However, Chandra said that Malaysia was not alone in allowing rural weightage, giving the example of such countries as Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Another political analyst, Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said the “one man, one vote” principle would be unfair to Sabah and Sarawak.

He said the two states should have a larger proportion of seats in Parliament as one of the safeguards proposed for Sabah and Sarawak when Malaysia was formed. “Sabah and Sarawak are huge so applying the one man, one vote principle will be unfair to the states and their people.”

Sabah currently has 26 parliamentary seats and Sarawak 31, comprising about a quarter of the 222 seats in Parliament.

Opposition politicians have often demanded that the Election Commission provide Sabah and Sarawak with more parliamentary seats so that they each have one-third of the total.

Aziz Bari of DAP, a noted constitutional scholar, said that any federal government formed by Pakatan Harapan would face difficulties in redrawing electoral boundaries.

DAP’s Kampung Tunku candidate Lim Li Wei had suggested that a PH government carry out another redelineation exercise, after the most recent one resulted in the number of voters being doubled in the Damansara parliamentary seat.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng has also made similar calls to ensure the “one man, one vote” principle was upheld.

Aziz said the Federal Constitution was clear that a redelineation exercise could only be carried out once in eight years.

“If PH wants to conduct a fresh redelineation exercise, it would first need to get a two-thirds majority vote in the Dewan Rakyat to amend provisions of the federal constitution where redelineation is concerned.”

But the issue was not the time period, but rather a matter of how the redelineation was carried out.

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Redelineation to remain in power an old BN trick, says Chandra Muzaffar

Additional Link: 10/uphold-one-man-one-vote-rule-says-mp-zairil/ 24/ong-ec-has-diluted-the-value-of-your-vote/