The battle for Selangor in GE14 (Part 1)

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 26th of September, 2017

The battle for Selangor in GE14 (Part 1)

It is no secret that the Barisan Nasional (BN) is desperate to win back Selangor at all costs in the upcoming general election. The reasons are obvious. Selangor is the richest state in Malaysia by economic output. Many big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL), the High Speed Rail (HSR), the LRT and MRT projects, water projects and new toll roads, require the approval of the Selangor state government. Having a well-governed Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government on the doorstep of Putrajaya is also a headache for the BN because voters can compare and contrast the performance of the Selangor state government with other BN state governments as well as the Federal Government.

What are the chances of the BN recapturing Selangor in GE14? The answer lies partly with the outcome of the expected three corner fights which will occur between the BN, PH and PAS. Before I go into the analysis of possible outcomes in three corner fights, it is important to understand the nature of voters in Selangor. Voters in Selangor are perhaps the most ‘sophisticated’ in the whole country and because of this, their voting patterns are also the most volatile. Let me illustrate by using the general election results from 1990 onwards.

Figure 1 below shows the level of BN support in states which have been won or are held by the opposition namely Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Penang, Perak and Selangor from 1990 to 2013.

Figure 1: BN support in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Penang, Perak and Selangor (GE1990 to GE2013)

BN support in Selangor is the most volatile among all these frontline states. For example, the BN support in Selangor (highlighted in bold) increased from 54.8% to 72.4%, a massive spike, due to the high economic growth enjoyed by the country during the ‘East Asian’ miracle years from the early 1990s until just before the Asian economic crisis in 1997. Support for the BN in Selangor fell to 54.8% during the 1999 Reformasi elections. It then increased to 62.8% in 2004 during the Pak Lah ‘tsunami’ before falling to 43.4% in the 2008 BN backlash elections and falling to 38.4% in the 2013 GE.

Figure 2 below shows the changes in the level of BN support in these key stations from 1990 to 2013 with the figures for Selangor highlighted in bold. Figure 2 shows more clearly the level of volatility which Selangor voters exhibit from one election to another. From 1990 to 1995, BN support increased by 17.7%, the highest among all key states. BN support fell by 17.7% from 1995 to 1999, also the highest among all key states. From 2004 to 2008, BN support fell by 19.4%, the highest among all key states, which led to a change in government in Selangor.

Figure 2: Change in BN support in key states (GE1990 to GE2013)

Does the volatility shown by Selangor voters means that the BN can hope to win back Selangor based solely on its performance and leadership? This would be wishful thinking on the part of BN leaders. One of the main reasons why Selangor voters exhibit such volatility is that they are the fastest to reward good performance and also the fastest to punish bad performance. They rewarded the BN in 1995 for delivering economic growth and prosperity and they swung against the BN in 1999 because of the economic and political crisis during Reformasi (albeit not by enough for the BN to lose this state then). They swung against the BN in record numbers in 2008 because of dissatisfaction against Pak Lah due to undelivered election promises. There is nothing in BN’s track record and leadership which indicates that voters in Selangor will reward it in the next general election especially when the best the BN can do is to parade out a line-up of 3 ex-Menteri Besars, one of whom was convicted of corruption and another who was found carrying a suitcase full of cash to Australia.

The track record of the Selangor state government, while not perfect, has been positively felt by the voters in the state through many of the welfare programs under the ‘Inisiatif Peduli Rakyat’ umbrella including free medical cards for low income families and individuals and free buses in each of the districts / municipalities in the state. Investments and jobs continue to pour into Selangor. The high popularity of Selangor Menteri Besar, Azmin Ali, stands in stark contrast to that of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

A large number of the more than 2 million voters in Selangor are not originally from Selangor. Many of them move to Selangor because of better job and educational opportunities. As such, many of them are not attached to any political party i.e. they are not ‘hard-core’ BN or opposition supporters. Many of these voters also have better access to information including social and online media. They are not ‘brainwashed’ by mainstream media. Many of these voters also have higher income and education profiles compared to other states. And the number of newly registered voters is the highest in Selangor compared to other states.

All these reasons explain why most Selangor voters will vote practically i.e. by rewarding the party or coalition which promises to give them what they want namely better governance that will keep the streets clean, deliver better welfare programs, provide properly paved roads and improve the quality of life. These are also reasons why it is very possible for Pakatan Harapan (PH) to retain most of the seats which were won by Pakatan Rakyat in GE13 even in the case of three corner fights.

I will provide the evidence in Part 2 of my statement.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Has the Election Commission just implicated itself by admitting that it has destroyed the electoral rolls it used for the 1994 and 2003 delimitation exercises?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 22nd of July, 2017

Has the Election Commission just implicated itself by admitting that it has destroyed the electoral rolls it used for the 1994 and 2003 delimitation exercises?

The recent decision made by the Court of Appeal on Thursday, 20th of July, 2017, to set aside the High Court order for the Election Commission to provide the Selangor government information on 136,272 registered voters without proper addresses, may seem like a setback for those seeking to put a stop to the ongoing delimitation exercise. But part of the argument used by the federal counsel – namely that the Election Commission had discarded the records of these voters from the electoral rolls used in the 1994 and 2003 delimitation exercise – may come back to haunt the Election Commission.

The Selangor government can still appeal the Court of Appeal judgment at the Federal Court. But even if it loses the appeal at the apex court, the judicial review filed by the Selangor government against the Election Commission will still have to be heard at the High Court (Proceedings were postponed while waiting for the Court of Appeal decision stated above).

Recall that in December 2016, the High Court granted leave to the Selangor state government for its judicial review challenging the constitutionality of the ongoing delimitation exercise, which started on the 15th of September, 2016.

To recap, the judicial review case brought forth by the Selangor government was based on the following four grounds:

  1. Ground ONE: The EC’s Proposals are Unconstitutional as Tainted by Malapportionment and Gerrymandering
  2. Ground TWO: The Electoral Roll Complaint:  Unconstitutionality arising from the EC’s failure to use the Current Electoral Rolls
  3. Ground THREE: Election Commission’s Use of a Defective Electoral Roll With Missing Addresses of Voters
  4. Ground FOUR: Insufficient Particulars in the Proposed Recommendations Which Impaired Right To Make Meaningful Representations

By admitting that it has destroyed previous records of voters, including details containing the addresses of these voters, the Election Commission may have opened the door for its ongoing delimitation exercise to be questioned under Ground THREE (see above), which is the use of a defective electoral roll to conduct the delimitation exercise.

To make things easier to understand, let me illustrate with a simple example. Jalan Cheras is a very long road which starts in the heart of Kuala Lumpur at the intersection between Jalan Pudu and Jalan Tun Razak. It snakes through many housing areas in Cheras before finally ending in the center of Kajang town. (One has to remember that the naming of this road predated the creation of the Federal Territories Kuala Lumpur so the entire Jalan Cheras would have been in the state of Selangor)

Imagine if the voter was assigned to a particular locality along Jalan Cheras and the exact address of this voter was subsequently destroyed. How will the Election Commission determine which constituency this voter will be placed if the boundaries of the constituencies of the seats along Jalan Cheras were to be changed? At the time of writing, under the boundaries used in the 2013 general elections, Jalan Cheras passes through the P123 Cheras parliamentary constituency and the N23 Dusun Tua and N25 Kajang state seats in the P101 Hulu Langat parliament constituency. With the rapid development which has happened and is currently happening along Jalan Cheras, how can the EC accurately determine which constituency to place a voter without knowing his or her exact address?

In reality, the dirty little secret which the EC already knows but does not want to admit to is that our electoral roll is seriously flawed. In the past, when the BN was dominant and there was little scrutiny of the electoral roll, the EC allowed politicians (mostly from the BN) to register voters en masse with little regard to knowing exactly where these voters were living at. Some had complete addresses, others didn’t. Prior to 2002, voters did not need to register according to their IC address. We are still living with this legacy till today. Which is why there is a large number of voters without complete addresses even in developed states like Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

This much was clear to me as I uncovered various problems associated with the electoral roll under the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (MERAP) in 2012.

This is also the reason why lawyers representing the EC always refer to Section 9A of the Elections Act 1958 which prevents a gazetted electoral roll from being challenged in court. They hide behind this so-called ‘defense’ even though in this particular case, the Selangor government is not questioning the inclusion of these 136,272 voters in the electoral roll, but is asking for more information to determine if the constituency delimitation process has been carried out in accordance to constitutional principles.

The fight against the unfair delimitation exercise will continue. The judicial review case taken up by the Selangor government has prevented the Election Commission from starting the First Round of the constitutionally mandated public hearing process. The High Court also recently ruled in favour of the Selangor state government by granting an injuction application to stop the Election Commission from passing the delimitation exercise proposal to the Prime Minister without the inclusion of Selangor.

The judicial review in the High Court will continue. In the worst of circumstances, even if the High Court rules against the Selangor government, the EC must complete two rounds of a public hearing including a public display of maps and relevant information between rounds one and two before the delimitation exercise for Peninsular Malaysia can be completed. This gives time for the Selangor government to mount an appeal all the way up to the Federal Court if necessary.

There is also another High Court hearing on the right of the EC to move voters from the Batang Kali state seat to the Kuala Kubu state seat in Selangor during the ‘boundary correction’ exercise which took place in April 2016.

The Election Commission must be surprised by the slew of court cases taken up by the Pakatan Harapan state governments in Selangor and Penang and by groups of affected voters in various states including Penang, Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Johor. Even though some of these cases have been ruled in the favour of the EC, it must know that the will of the people cannot be defeated so easily, especially when the pressure for reforming our electoral system is maintained by organisations such as BERSIH and by supporters who want clean and fair elections in Malaysia.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Is the Election Commission (EC) trying to add voters via the ‘back door’ to help the BN win the next General Election?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 31st of May, 2017

Is the Election Commission (EC) trying to add voters via the ‘back door’ to help the BN win the next General Election?

I was shocked when I received a photo yesterday of the display of new voters for the First Quarter, 2017 at the offices of the Selangor Election Commission in Shah Alam. In the picture, it was stated that the list of voters displayed were “Pameran Senarai Tuntutuan” or Display of List Based on Claims (See Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Display of List based on Claims at the Selangor Election Commission office in Shah Alam

As far as I know, this is the first time where I have seen a display of a list of voters based on ‘tuntutan’ or claims. Unlike the display of the quarterly “Rang Daftar Pemilih Tambahan (RDPT)”, the Election Commission did not make any media statement to notify the public that these additional names to be added into the electoral roll were on display nor did the Election Commission display these names in locations in each of the parliamentary areas in Selangor.

The EC is making use of a little used and little known section of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 – Section 14 – which states the following:

Section 14 of the Regulations is supposed to address the problem of genuine mistakes by the Election Commission, for example, in the case where an EC staff forget to input a name into the latest RDPT or for some reason, the information of a voter who registers at a post office fails to be included in the latest RDPT.

However, according to data collected by PEMUDA AMANAH, a total of 28416 voters were added using Section 14 of the Regulations in this most recent display including 1,170 voters in Selangor (See Figure 2 below). Does the EC expected us to believe that it somehow ‘forgot’ to include over 28,000 voters in the RDPT for Quarter 1, 2017? In addition, why is there a big rush on the part of the EC to add these voters now rather than to wait until the public display of the RDPT for Quarter 2, 2017? Is it because the EC wants to make sure that these voters are on the electoral roll if the General Elections were to be called in September?

Figure 2: Number of voters added using Section 14 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002
Source: PEMUDA AMANAH

An analysis of the voters added in Selangor shows that all of the voters added are based in military camps and / or are military voters and their spouses (See sample in Figure 3 below). Let me clearly state that I am not objecting to the addition of army voters into the electoral roll. Rather, I am questioning the procedure by which they have been added.

I have written to the Director of the Selangor Election Commission to explain the addition of these voters and why they were not added during the public display of the first quarter, 2017, of the RDPT. The failure of the EC to provide an adequate explanation will jeopardise public trust in the integrity of the electoral roll.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Figure 3: Sample of Military voters added via Section 14 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002