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Will other nefarious ways be used by the Election Commission (EC) or the Prime Minister to pass an unfair Selangor delimitation plan?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang and Assistant National Director for Political Education, on the 18th of January 2018

Will other nefarious ways be used by the Election Commission (EC) or the Prime Minister to pass an unfair Selangor delimitation plan?

Even though the 2nd Notice (Syor 2) of the Delimitation Exercise in Selangor did nothing to make the number of voters in the parliament and state seats approximately equal[1] and even though the Election Commission (EC) was guilty of ethnic gerrymandering in a number of state seats in Syor 2[2], it was still somewhat surprising that the EC reverted to the electoral boundaries used in the 13th general election for most of the seats in Selangor. This raises the question of what motivated the EC to do so?

Is it possible that the EC actually took into account some of the viewpoints of the objectors who presented their views in the public hearing after the 1st Notice (Syor 1)? I am sceptical of this viewpoint because many of the complaints highlighted the differences in the number of voters between state and parliament seats under Syor 1. The EC would have followed up on these complaints by equalizing the number of voters between the Seri Serdang (74,563 voters) and Kinrara (34,910 voters) state seats (both of which are under the Puchong parliament seat), for example. But the EC chose to maintain the GE13 borders of both state seats and allow this discrepancy to continue to exist.

Given that the EC has a very poor record of responding positively to feedback from the public and opposition politicians (and most of the objections were filed / organized by opposition politicians), there must be other reasons behind the EC’s partial U-turn in Selangor.

One possibility is that the EC is concerned that a court case filed by either the Selangor state government or by a voter in Selangor will delay the delimitation exercise in Selangor (and hence the entire delimitation exercise for Peninsular Malaysia) if it maintains the boundaries proposed in Syor 1. The act by the EC to increase the size of discrepancies in the number of voters between parliament and state seats was too obvious and subject to legal challenge. The Selangor state government could pursue a fresh injunction against Syor 2 or it could be successful in its appeal in the Court of Appeal against Syor 1. The EC wanted to pre-empt this by reverting back, mostly, to the GE13 boundaries for most of the seats, especially for the more egregious cases involving the PJ Utara and PJ Selatan parliament seats.

The EC may feel that this ‘price’ is worth paying i.e. maintaining most of the boundaries in Selangor because the delimitation exercise in other states in Peninsular Malaysia has delivered sufficient electoral advantages to the BN. This would be my most ‘generous’ reading of the EC’s strategy.

Of course, this does not mean that the proposals presented in Syor 2 are final. The EC may be hoping that that opposition parties will be complacent and not file in any objections against Syor 2 because the boundaries from GE13 have largely been maintained. If the opposition parties do not file in many objections but if the BN parties organize themselves and file objections to Syor 2 and ask for the boundaries proposed in Syor 1 to be restored, the EC may take the opportunity to shift the boundaries back to what was proposed in Syor 1 before submitting the entire delimitation plan to the PM.

Even if very few objections are filed against Syor 2 in Selangor, the EC still can unilaterally revert back to the boundaries proposed in Syor 1. This, of course, would mean that the EC is acting in very bad faith. But the problem for the opposition is that the final delimitation exercise would not be publicly revealed until it is tabled in parliament in the upcoming March / April 2018 sitting. By then, it may be too late to make a legal challenge to the whole exercise once it is tabled in parliament.

There is however another possibility. Section 9 of the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution seems to give the power to the Prime Minister to modify the proposal for the delimitation exercise after it has been submitted to him. (See Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Section 9 of the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution which writes that the PM can modify the Election Commission report for the delimitation exercise AFTER it has been submitted to the PM

Given that the BN is desperate to win back Selangor, this is the most likely outcome. The EC can absolve itself from acting in bad faith by putting the responsibility solely on the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister can refer to the Federal Constitution to say that he is acting within his powers, even though by doing so, it would make a mockery of the entire delimitation exercise and the need for public hearings.

What can be done to stop something like this from happening? A few things. Firstly, as many objections must be filed against Syor 2 in Selangor as possible. This will force the EC to have a longer period for the 2nd public hearing and delay the entire process to after the end of the March / April parliament sitting thereby preventing the tabling of the delimitation exercise in parliament. Secondly, the Selangor state government can continue to pursue its legal challenges in court including filing for an injunction against Syor 2 and continuing to challenge the gross malapportionment in Selangor in the Court of Appeal. Only with a concerted and determined effort, do we stand any chance of delaying the unfair and unconstitutional delimitation exercise from being passed in the March / April 2018 parliament sitting.

[1] http://ongkianming.com/2018/01/16/media-statement-the-delimitation-exercise-in-selangor-is-still-unfair-and-unconstitutional/

[2] http://ongkianming.com/2018/01/17/the-selangor-delimitation-exercise-is-guilty-of-ethnic-gerrymandering/

The Selangor delimitation exercise is guilty of ethnic gerrymandering

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang and Assistant National Director for Political Education, on the 17th of January 2018

The Selangor delimitation exercise is guilty of ethnic gerrymandering

On the surface, it seems that the 2nd Notice (or Syor 2) of the Selangor delimitation exercise which was publicly released on the 14th of January 2018 reverts the boundaries of the parliament and state seats in Selangor back to the boundaries used in the 2013 general elections. But a deeper examination of the polling districts that were shifted shows that the Election Commission is guilty of ‘ethnic gerrymandering’ with the intention of helping the Barisan Nasional (specifically UMNO) win back some of these marginal state seats by increasing the percentage of Malay voters in these seats and shifting non-Malay voters to safe Pakatan Harapan state seats.

As a result of Syor 2, there were six state seats where the % of Malay voters increased by more than 5% – N11 Ijok, N18 Hulu Kelang, N20 Lembah Jaya, N21 Chempaka (renamed Pandah Indah), N51 Morib and N53 Sijangkang.

In N11 Ijok, a seat which was won by PKR by 739 votes in GE2013, the % of Malay voters increased from 50% to 60.4% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: N11 Ijok Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

In N18 Hulu Kelang, which was won by PAS by 2881 votes in GE2013, the % of Malay voters increased from 80.8% to 86.6% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 2 below).

Figure 2: N18 Hulu Kelang Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

In N20 Lembah Jaya, which was won by PAS by 8713 votes in GE2013, the % of Malay voters increased from 54.5% to 62.2% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 3 below).

Figure 3: N20 Lembah Jaya Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

In N21 Chempaka (proposed to be renamed as Pandan Indah), which was won by PAS by 9608 votes in GE2013, the % of Malay voters increased from 53.0% to 61.7% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 4 below).

Figure 4: N21 Chempaka / Pandan Indah Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

In N51 Sijangkang, which was won by PAS by 766 votes in GE2013, the % of Malay voters increased from 66.6% to 71.7% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 5 below).

Figure 5: N51 Sijangkang Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

In N53 Morib, which was won by PAS by 2942 votes in GE2013, the % of Malay voters increased from 62.5% to 73.4% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 6 below).

Figure 6: N53 Morib Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

On the other hand, N19 Bukit Antarabangsa, which was won by PKR by 4044 votes in GE2013, the Malay % has decreased from 57.1% in GE2013 to 41.6% as a result of Syor 2. Ironically, Azmin Ali’s state seat will become a Chinese majority seat (from 35.6% to 50.5%) if Syor 2 is passed (See Figure 7 below).

Figure 7: N19 Bukit Antarabangsa Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

In N22 Teratai, which was won by DAP in GE2013 with a 13,646 vote majority, the % of Chinese voters increased from 59.0% in GE2013 to 62.1% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 8 below)

Figure 8: N22 Teratai Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

Finally, in N52 Teluk Datuk (proposed to be renamed as Banting), which was won by the DAP by 5391 votes, the % of Chinese voters increased significantly from 45.0% in GE2013 to 59.6% as a result of Syor 2 (See Figure 9 below).

Figure 9: N52 Teluk Datuk / Banting Ethnic Composition (GE2013 vs Syor 2)

When we examine these figures, we can clearly see can the only reason why the EC made these changes in Syor 2 were for political reasons which is to help UMNO in these seats.

The Delimitation Exercise in Selangor is still unfair and unconstitutional

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang and Assistant National Director for Political Education, on the 16th of January 2018

The Delimitation Exercise in Selangor is still unfair and unconstitutional

Yesterday, on the 15th of January 2018, the Election Commission (EC) issued the 2nd Notice (or Syor 2) for the Delimitation Exercise for the state of Selangor.[1] The delimitation exercise for all the other states in Peninsular Malaysia have been completed with the exception of Selangor. With the publication of the 2nd notice and the completion of the 2nd public hearing, the EC can then pass the delimitation exercise for Peninsular Malaysia to the Prime Minister who is expected to table this and also the Sabah delimitation exercise in the upcoming March to April 2018 parliament sitting.

At first glance, Syor 2 seems to return the boundaries of the seats in Selangor back to the boundaries which were used in the 2013 general election, with the exception of 5 parliament seats and name changes to one parliament and four state seats. But by returning to the GE13 status quo, the EC shows that it has failed to achieve one of the key objectives of any delimitation exercise, which is to reduce the disparity between the number of voters in the parliament and state seats.

For example, the parliament seat of Kapar (146,317 voters) still has nearly 4 times as many voters as the parliament seat of Sabak Bernam (37,126) under Syor 2. (See Figure 1 below)

Figure 1: No of voters by Parliament Seat in Selangor according to Syor 2

It would be hard for an independent and impartial EC to argue for a ‘rural-weightage’ of nearly 4 to 1 for a developed state like Selangor where even areas like Sabak Bernam and Tanjong Karang are well connected by roads and highways.

At the same time, the EC has failed to reduce the disparity in the number of voters between state seats, even for those located in the same area. For example, the number of voters in Seri Serdang and Kinrara in Syor 2 are 74,563 and 34,910 respectively even though both of these state seats are in the urban seat of P103 Puchong and are under the jurisdiction of the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) (See Figure 2 below). The fact that Seri Serdang has more than twice the number of voters in Kinrara even though they are both urban seats is a gross violation of Section 2(c) of the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

Figure 2: No of Voters in the two state seats in P103 Puchong in Syor 2

Another example can be found in the parliament seat of P106 PJ Utara. The number of voters in the two state seats in PJ Utara are 53,440 (Damansara Utama) and 31,016 (Kampung Tunku) respectively even though both of these state seats are urban seats under the Petaling Jaya municipal council. (Figure 3 below)

Figure 3: No of Voters in the two state seats in P106 PJ Utara (Syor 2)

Similar discrepancies can be found in the state seats in P113 Sepang. The state seat of Dengkil (39,380 voters) has almost twice as many voters as Sungai Pelek (23,989) and Tanjong Sepat (22,026) even though all of these seats are located under the Sepang Municipal Council (See Figure 4 below)

Figure 4: No of voters in the three state seats in P113 Sepang (Syor 2)

For a state which has experienced such a rapid growth in the number of voters such as Selangor, what the EC should have done is to increase the number of state and parliament seats in order to reduce the discrepancy in the number of voters in the state and parliament seats in accordance to Section 2(C) of the Federal Constitution which states that the number of voters within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal with some measure of urban-rural weightage.

It is not the responsibility of the EC to ensure that the Selangor state will amend its state constitution to cater for the increase in the number of seats nor is it the responsibility of the EC to ensure that there is enough support in parliament to amend the constitution to increase the number of parliament seats. This responsibility lies solely in the hands of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must convince 2/3rds of MPs in parliament that the delimitation exercise is worthy of their support in order to amend the federal constitution and increase the number of parliament seats. Similarly, the Prime Minister must work with and obtain the agreement of the Selangor state to increase the number of state seats.

So even though Syor 2 does not exhibit the gross gerrymandering that was evident in Syor 1, the EC has very obviously failed in adhering to the Federal constitution in carrying out the delimitation exercise for Selangor.

[1] http://www.spr.gov.my/ms/pusat-media/berita/persempadanan-pameran-syor-kedua-urusan-kajian-semula-persempadanan-bagi-negeri