Did the Election Commission choose not to increase parliament seats in the Sarawak delimitation to bulldoze the exercise in time for the next Sarawak state elections?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 8th of January 2015

The recent Sarawak delimitation exercise, which officially began on Monday, 5th of January, 2015, with a public display of the maps in Sarawak was shocking because for the first time in Sarawak’s history, state seats were added without a single increase in the number of parliament seats.

Table 1 below shows the number of parliament and state seats added in each of the 5 delimitation exercises since 1968. With the exception of the 1968 and 1977 delimitation exercises where no parliament and state seats were added in Sarawak, in each of the past three delimitation exercises in 1986, 1996 and 2005, both parliament and state seats were added in Sarawak.

In the recently revealed Sarawak delimitation exercise, a record number of new state seats – 11 – have been proposed by the Election Commission. This would increase the number of state seats in Sarawak from the current 71 to a proposed 82 state seats.

What is the rationale for increasing the number of state seats by 11 but not adding a single parliament seat? If an increase in the voting population is used to justify the increase in state seats, why should that rationale not apply to parliament seats as well?

One cannot help but suspect that the real reason why there were no parliament seats added is because this would require a constitutional amendment at the parliamentary level where the BN does not possess a two-thirds majority. If new parliament seats were proposed, then the whole Sarawak delimitation exercise may be delayed because it may get stuck at the parliamentary level.

The non-increase in the number of parliament seats while at the same time increase in state seats is a clear indication that the Election Commission is not complying with democratic principles but is bowing down to political expediency in wanting to bulldoze the new Sarawak delimitation exercise in time for the Sarawak state elections, due by 2016. Once again, this shows the non-independence of the Election Commission and its failure to produce an independent, fair and transparent delimitation exercise. Political parties, civil society organizations and members of the public who are concerned about upholding free and fair elections must join together to reject this unfair and undemocratic Sarawak delimitation exercise.