KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 – The Election Commission (EC) has been urged to review the method of its delimitation exercise to improve accessibility and voters’ participation. The public need to have easier access to view revised maps of constituencies so that feedback and objections can be easier made within the one-month ‘objection’ period, under existing laws, says civil society groups.
Presently, the EC will announce the proposed maps in at least one newspaper on the areas that are affected by the revision, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution. The new maps will then be put up at a specified place at the state or parliamentary constituency. Within the one-month period, public can object to the boundaries proposed by the EC, following which it will open up an inquiry upon receiving of objections from 100 or more voters from the same constituency.
“In the past, constituency proposals by the EC had received little or no public attention apart from objections from opposition parties,” Tindak Malaysia Delimitation Analyst Ng Chak Ngoon told a press conference yesterday. The PC was to discuss the groups’ call to urge the EC to live up to its promise in ensuring transparent and fair electoral process.
“The EC could dismiss these submissions as invalid on the grounds that they were done without maps – to show how constituencies could be defined differently,” he said, adding that with the past record of the EC’s practices had certainly led to malapportionment. Civil society groups such as Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) and Bersih 2.0 are also echoing similar sentiments to Tindak Malaysia.
“We have no trust in the EC to be transparent in the delimitation exercise. We don’t even know when the exercise is starting,” said Bersih steering committee chairman, Maria Chin Abdullah. Proham secretariat Rama Ramanathan cited the indelible ink fiasco during the 2008 general election (GE) as an example as he questioned whether any action has been taken pertaining to the matter. (In 2008, the EC had planned to use the indelible ink but cancelled the move three days before the rakyat went to the polls, citing security issues and public order.)
“The EC seemed to just brush it away like it doesn’t matter,” said Ramanathan. The recommendations by Tindak Malaysia are divided into several areas including online display of the proposed maps, schedule, document accessibility, physical display and display method. The proposed maps should be made available online as soon as they are unveiled by the EC.
For transparency, the EC should provide a firm timeline of the delimitation exercise for the public to have adequate time to register as objectors and submit counter-proposals for fairer delimitation of constituencies. Physical display of all delimitation proposals at the EC headquarters in Putrajaya for viewing or purchased at a nominal charge is also part of the recommendations.
As part of its initiative, Tindak Malaysia announced that it had developed the software to quickly analyse the EC’s proposal on constituency and to produce maps that reflects voter distribution for fair constituencies. The group said under the current delimitation exercise some constituencies appear to be very large while others are relatively small.
It is the disproportion that has led to the election results that may not be representative of the votes cast during election. “Take Selangor constituencies, for example. During the 2013 GE there were more than 144,000 registered voters in the single constituency of Kapar, which is more than the combined 123,000 voters in the three smallest constituencies of Sabak Bernam, Sungai Besar and Tanjong Karang.
“In the same GE, Barisan Nasional (BN) with only 47.38 percent of the popular votes could still win 60 percent of the Parliamentary seats. “If it goes on, BN will still form the government even with 45 percent or even 35 percent of the popular votes,” the group stressed. EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had said the EC was expected to gazette the notice for the long overdue delimitation exercise at the end of this year, having deferred the scheduled exercise in 2011. The last delimitation exercise was carried out by the EC was in March 2003.