PETALING JAYA: There is a need to review how electoral boundaries are redelineated to prevent further divisive segregation of voters along ethnic lines, according to analysts.
Responding to the Election Commission’s proposal to alter the electoral boundaries of 113 parliamentary seats in the peninsula which has drawn wide criticism for creating fewer mixed seats and reinforcing mono-ethnic ones, Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian said the proposed boundaries could further entrench racial politics and discourse.
“Given that redelineation is an exercise that takes place every 10 years or so, this means the next decade will continue to see the continued trajectory along current trends.
“This is because elected representatives will be more attuned to their monoglot constituencies compared to the mixed ones of the past,” he said.
Political parties from Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan along with NGOs and voters have stated that they will file objections against the EC’s proposal.
The EC will be holding a local inquiry after Oct 14 – when the one-month period to display the proposed re-delineation ends – in order to hear the objections.
Ibrahim said any redelineation along ethnic lines could hamper the move towards a shared Malaysian identity and be counterproductive to national interest.
A better option would be to draw constituency boundaries to reflect the communal mix in a state, he added.
“This could force parties to moderate their position as well as improve diversity in terms of candidates on offer to the electorate.”
Assoc Prof Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin, a political analyst from Universiti Selangor, said the national electoral system did not set rules to ensure that each constituency must have a certain ethnic balance or that there must be an adequate number of elected representatives from each of the various races.
He said this was unlike Singapore’s Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) in which the electorate voted for a group of individuals from different racial communities to be their MPs.
“We don’t need to introduce a totally new system. Rather, we need to improve weaknesses in our current system because the spirit of promoting democracy and harmony is already enshrined in our Federal Constitution,” said Shaharuddin.
He said one of the weaknesses of the current redelineation proposal was the existence of many urban constituencies which differed vastly in terms of the number of voters, which gave rise to a lot of questions.
Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Faisal Syam Hazis of UKM said the EC should look into claims of gerrymandering in existing state and parliamentary seats as highlighted by certain groups.
“Some boundaries look bizarre, and some are not following local council boundaries,” he added.
Concurring with politicians from both sides of the political divide, he said the re-delineation exercise would dilute the composition of mostly non-Malay seats.
South-East Asia political analyst Dr Bridget Welsh said racial polarisation could sharpen further if the proposal was pushed through.
“But what is even more decisive is the fact that urban voters across races in these seats are being disempowered significantly.
“It is important to acknowledge the number of Malays and Indians in some of these seats. This really has a negative impact on national integration and cohesion.
“Promoting unfairness breeds resentment and anger, something Malaysia has too much of and needs to reduce,’’ she said.
Dr Welsh, a senior research associate at the Centre for East Asia Democratic Studies of the National Taiwan University, said the DAP and MCA will be affected with “the former being contained and the latter diminished”, but said that the party to suffer the most would be PAS.
“Redrawing the lines of Terengganu, Kelantan and Kedah as well as movement of Chinese out of many west coast seats, PAS will face real decimation,” she added.
Political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir said the EC has to be seen as transparent and take into account the proposal according to the Federal Constitution.
He said there would be far reaching implications in terms of voting patterns.