Malaysia

One rural vote worth six urban ballots, favours BN, analysts say

By Shannon Teoh and Ida Lim
April 25, 2012

Lecturer Wong Chin Huat said a constitutional safeguard against gerrymandering was first loosened and subsequently removed completely.—File picLecturer Wong Chin Huat said a constitutional safeguard against gerrymandering was first loosened and subsequently removed completely.—File picPETALING JAYA, April 25 — The Election Commission’s (EC) drawing of electoral boundaries makes a rural voter worth an average of six urban voters, biasing elections towards Barisan Nasional (BN) as it is stronger in the countryside, according to poll analysts.

Election watchdog Tindak Malaysia founder PY Wong said the ruling coalition won 112 out of the smallest 139 federal seats in Election 2008, giving it simple majority in Parliament with just 18.9 per cent of the popular vote. The seats have not been changed for the next general election.

“Something is seriously wrong when you can win 50.4 per cent of Parliament with just 18.9 per cent of the votes,” he told a forum here last night.

Wong said malapportionment — unequally-sized constituencies — and gerrymandering — manipulation of electoral boundaries — also allowed the ruling coalition to rack up 62 of the smallest seats with just 6.2 per cent of the popular vote.

Something is seriously wrong when you can win 50.4 per cent of Parliament with just 18.9 per cent of the votes

He pointed out how the smallest federal seat was Putrajaya, won by BN, with 6,008 voters, while Kapar, won by PKR, had over 112,000.

Another analyst, Wong Chin Huat, pointed out that the smallest 112 seats only represented 33.8 per cent of the electorate.

The Bersih steering committee member said this allowed for the lopsided results in 2004, where BN won 90.9 per cent of Parliament with just 63.9 per cent of the popular vote, while Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was PKR’s sole MP despite gaining 8.4 per cent of votes cast.

“This means one vote for BN was worth 26 votes for PKR,” he said.

Chin Huat said malapportionment and gerrymandering have been made easier after a constitutional provision, which stated the largest and smallest seats may only have a 15 per cent differential, was amended in 1962 to 50 per cent and then abolished completely in 1973.

The lecturer at Monash University, Sunway, said Bersih proposed to solve the rural bias by ensuring that the maximum size of the largest state seat can only be half of the smallest federal seat.

“If they have small rural parliamentary seats, this will only create many urban state seats and give urban voters control of the state governments. By linking Parliament and state seats, you avoid the bias,” he said.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) denied BN its customary two-thirds supermajority of Parliament at the last general election by capturing 82 federal seats and five state governments.

Although the opposition coalition marginally won the popular vote in Peninsular Malaysia, it only took 80 out of the 166 federal seats available there. But it has now lost six seats as the winning lawmakers have turned independent and support BN in parliament.

Bersih will hold a sit-in rally this weekend to press its demands for electoral reforms despite a parliamentary select committee (PSC) making its recommendations to the EC.