The New Election Boundaries: Where GE-14 will be won or lost

Earlier this month, in historic legal victories, BERSIH 2.0 Outreach
Officer Chan Tsu Chong along with six others were granted leave and a stay
order to challenge the Election Commission’s (EC) delineation proposals in
Melaka.

This means the process of re-drawing the election boundaries for Melaka has
been suspended until the court case is completed.

This builds upon the work already done in Selangor to challenge the new
proposals.

The importance of these legal challenges for the fate of the Fourteenth
General Election (GE14) can’t be overstated.

The EC’s motivations for the new boundaries are obvious. The new boundaries
are there to shift the balance of seats to secure a strong Barisan Nasional
(BN) victory in the next election.

The political motivations behind the EC’s boundaries

According to research by Politweet, BN can win an additional 11 seats in
the Selangor State Legislative Assembly with the new boundaries proposed in
September 2016. These 11 seats would be won with no changes in votes from
GE13 but only through the shifting of voters to strategic seats for BN.

Similarly, in the September 2016 proposals for Melaka, the seat of Bukit
Baru, won by Pakatan Rakyat by 48 votes in GE13, would be won by BN with a
1,600-vote majority with the new boundaries. The marginal seat of Telok
Mas, won by BN by just 700 votes in GE13, would become a safe seat with a
3,000-vote majority.

Worse still, based on the September 2016 proposal, the Bukit Katil federal
seat, won by Pakatan Rakyat in GE13 by nearly 7,000 votes, would now be won
by BN with a 4,800 vote majority. This move is especially suspicious, given
that in August 2016, one month before the proposal became public, the
Melaka Chief Minister called for the EC to change Bukit Katil boundaries to
make it easier for BN to win.

The same pattern emerges throughout the country. In Perak, the safe Pakatan
Rakyat seats in GE13 of Changkat Jering and Sungai Rapat would be won by
BN, with no change in votes. In Kuala Lumpur, Nurul Izzah Anwar would lose
the seat of Lembah Pantai.

The legal challenges

For the first time in our history, the EC is being dragged to court over
and over again to stop their flagrant cheating through delineation. The
rakyat have shown their outrage, with more than 1,000 objections submitted
to the EC between September 2016 and April 2017 over their proposals.

The EC has been inundated with legal cases on delineation. So far, 11 cases
have been filed in courts across the country, challenging the lack of
information provided (yes, the EC doesn’t even want to tell voters how they
are affected!), the unconstitutional proposals and the EC’s refusal to hold
local inquiries when legally required to do so.

So far, there have been some brave High Court judges willing to take a
stand.

Judges Azizul Azmi Adnan and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera for the Selangor
and Melaka cases, respectively, have both granted leave to hear the
arguments of the case and have put a stay on further action by the EC to
re-draw the boundaries in those two states.

The Selangor State Government’s challenge is now being heard in court and
we have already heard some startling revelations from the EC, including
that the information related to 136,000 addresses on the electoral roll has
been destroyed.

I think it is fair to say we can expect more such ludicrous explanations
from the EC as the cases progress.

What does this mean for GE14?

Even though the Federal Constitution allows the EC up to two years to
complete the delineation exercise, the EC now seems to be desperate to
finish the process as soon as possible. We can only wonder why this would
be the case.

If the EC cared to follow the Constitution, once the court granted a stay
for Selangor, this should have halted the process for the whole of the
peninsula. This is because the Constitution says peninsular Malaysia must
be treated as a whole unit when drawing constituencies.

However, the EC has decided to continue the delineation process “excluding
the state of Selangor”. It is clear the EC is trying to bulldoze their
proposal through no matter what the courts say. It shows complete contempt
for the rule of law and our Federal Constitution.

On a positive note, it looks like the boundaries to the federal and state
seats in Selangor may have been saved from the changes that would have led
to a rigged election in a state BN is desperate to win back.

For the rest of the country, we can only speculate what the EC’s plans are.

It is now possible the EC will take the unconstitutional step of presenting
their final proposals to the Prime Minister without completing the process
for Selangor and Melaka. The Prime Minister can then table the new
boundaries in Parliament by the end of July and announce the dissolution of
Parliament by August. The election can then be held as early as September.

The EC Up to the Same Old Tricks

We are fully aware of how the process would have been conducted if the EC
were not merely a puppet for the ruling party.

The Constitution is clear. Seats in the same state must have “approximately
equal” number of voters and the EC must try to follow local ties in drawing
the boundaries.

If the EC were fair, we would not have a seat in Selangor with more than
150,000 voters (Petaling Jaya Utara) and another with just 37,000 voters
(Sabak Bernam). We would not have boundaries that cut households or
communities in half to suit certain voting patterns. Local councils would
not be criss-crossed with constituency boundaries, resulting in councillors
having to communicate with multiple MPs on local issues.

In the past year, public confidence in the EC has been further eroded. They
have refused to supply draft electoral rolls to the public. They have
allowed people to register in constituencies they have never lived in. They
have restricted voter registration exercises by limiting the number of
forms available. Their actions in relation to delineation should be the
final nail in the coffin.

While BERSIH 2.0 will continue to fight for reforms and an independent EC
before GE14, what matters most now is the people’s power to overcome this
cheating and manipulation. The rakyat must once again come out and make
their vote count. Only with overwhelming voter turnout on Election Day do
we have a chance to override the EC’s underhanded tactics.

Zoë Randhawa is Advocacy Officer for BERSIH 2.0.


*Media & Comms Officer*

BERSIH 2.0 Secretariat
Email: media@bersih.org
Web: http://www.bersih.org
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