Gerrymandering, an insidious weapon to win elections

There have been many allegations that electoral boundaries in Malaysia are drawn to favour the incumbent and it is probably the single biggest factor that can determine the outcome even before an election is called.

Since the last redelineation in 2003 for the peninsula and Sabah and 2005 for Sarawak, the country has seen three general elections with the last two registering extremely high on the political Richter scale.

The time for a redelineation is long overdue and it is an exercise that is needed not just to adjust for population growth and movement over the last 12 years but also to adjust for the changed political landscape and voting patterns.

The latter reason is called manipulation. For Barisan Nasional (BN), it is a do-or-die redelineation exercise.

There are two main types of electoral boundary manipulations: gerrymandering and malapportionment.

One manipulates the composition of electorates while the other manipulates the size of a constituency.

Both have the same objective of drawing the boundaries in such a way that it favours a particular party or class of people.

The result of the 13th General Election (GE13) attest to the deciding role of gerrymandering and malapportionment.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR), who won 50.87% of votes cast, received only 40% of seats in Parliament while Barisan Nasional who obtained only 47.38% of the votes won 59.9% of the seats.

Based on Politweet.org’s categorisation of urban, semi-urban and rural constituencies, the vast majority, 81.2%, of the seats won by BN were rural while it only won five of the 43 urban seats.

PR won 34 of the 54 semi-urban seats while BN won 20. The voting divide at GE13 is clear, it is an urban-rural divide.

The real battlegrounds are the 54 semi-urban seats and around 30 rural seats where the margin of victory was less than 5%.

If you consider that PR was just 24 seats short of forming a new government with a simple majority of 112 seats, you would have realised that they came pretty close.

In fact, just a 5% swing towards the opposition in any of the 50 BN semi-urban and rural seats, would have seen Malaysian waking up to a new government on May 6, 2013.

Coupled with the changed political landscape where the popularity of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is at an all-time low amidst the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, GST, depreciation of the ringgit and an uncertain global economic future, the chance of a decisive change in government is not unrealistic.

Gerrymandering, an insidious weapon to win elections
30 November 2015 – TMI


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