Redrawing of constituency boundaries must be based on fairness, not race and religion

A fair redrawing process that respects the principles of equality and local ties will lay the foundation for a more level political playing field

Khairuddin Aman Razali - Photo: Wikipedia

Tindak Malaysia is appalled by Pas central committee member Khairuddin Aman Razali’s recent call for an increase in the number of seats and a redrawing of constituency boundaries based on race and religion.

As Khairuddin is also the Plantation and Industries Minister, his views are detrimental to the country, party and the coalition he is with.

Pas vice-president Nik Amar Abdullah echoed this call, asking for additional seats for Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Kedah to increase the number of Malay representatives in the Parliament.

Khairuddin’s call to increase parliamentary seats for Malay-majority areas and to redraw constituency boundaries to benefit a certain group goes against the principle of Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution, ie all Malaysians are equal under the law. 

While we acknowledge the flawed nature of the current constitutional principles of the redrawing of constituency boundaries, the aim of any redrawing is to comply with the Thirteenth Schedule.

We must consider two key tenets of the Thirteenth Schedule in relation to this uncalled for proposal by Khairuddin: respecting the equality of voters in a given state and the maintenance of local ties.

Historically, race-based redrawing of constituency boundaries in Malaysia have created a runaway malapportionment crisis in the country and systematic disregard of local ties.

Khairuddin’s proposal is similar to Hindraf’s call for the creation of seven Indian-majority seats in 2019 – an idea we openly rejected.

The creation of Indian-majority or Malay majority seats (using the logic of the calls by Khairuddin and Hindraf) opens the door to more malapportionment and gerrymandering in the country.

Race or religious-based redrawing of boundaries deepens existing ethno-religious polarisation in Malaysia, which we are strongly opposed to.

Moreover, race-based redrawing of a constituency boundaries works on the flawed logic that beneficiary groups will vote along the same lines for a given area and time.

The 2018 race-based redrawing serves as a timely reminder that it is possible for the one who rigs constituency boundaries to lose the election. Compounded with the fact that the first-past-the-post system is vulnerable to electoral boundary rigging, the call for race-based redrawing of boundaries ought to be rejected outright.

A seat increase and any subsequent boundary redrawing due to the seat increase should only be considered in the following situations:

  • If there is a change in the electoral system to a Mixed Member Proportional system
  • If it is conducted in tandem with comprehensive institutional reforms through constitutional amendments
  • If we consider the impact of the new size of the electorate after the implementation of Undi18 [the reduction of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18].

Following on from these reasons, we have proposed that any future redrawing should be carried out with these considerations:

  • federal and state constituencies shall have an electorate size of not more than +/-15% of the state average for the states of Peninsular Malaysia and not more than +/-25% of the state average for Sabah and Sarawak
  • constituencies ought to be drawn so that the fragmentation of geographically concentrated minorities is avoided and coincides with communities of interest
  • constituencies ought to respect local authority boundaries

The redrawing of constituency boundaries based on race and religion should not be tolerated, as it will accentuate unnecessarily deep divisions in society. A fair redrawing process that respects the principles of equality and local ties will lay the foundation for a more level political playing field and ensure that voters have accessibility to their elected representatives. – Tindak Malaysia

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