The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) strongly condemns the prime minister, the Electoral Commission and members of Parliament who supported the motion for passing and gazetting the constituency boundary changes proposal in haste last week.
Bersih 2.0 maintains that the tabling, passing, and gazetting of the proposal was procedurally illegal as the Electoral Commission has not yet completed the second local inquiries in Selangor. This issue is presently being challenged in the Shah Alam Court by 107 plaintiffs representing a group of over 10,000 voters.
In addition, the final constituency boundary changes report contained recommendations that would severely worsen the integrity of our electoral system. Bersih 2.0 wishes to highlight and raise the following seven issues:
(1) Sustaining and worsening malapportionment
In conducting a boundary changes exercise under Article 113(2) of the Federal Constitution, the Electoral Commission is constitutionally obligated to reduce malapportionment and ensure that the number of voters in constituencies are “approximately equal” as required under section 2(c), of the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.
The Electoral Commission has failed in this aspect by illegally sustaining and worsening malapportionment via the boundary changes exercise. With the exception of Perlis, Terengganu, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, the ratio between the smallest and largest parliamentary constituencies within the states is above two. The ratios were even amplified by the exercise itself – in Selangor (from 3.94 to 4.05), Johor (from 3.05 to 3.17), Kedah (from 2.53 to 2.70) and Malacca (from 2.17 to 2.50) – showing the Electoral Commission’s utter contempt for the Federal Constitution.
Comparison between the smallest and biggest federal constituencies in terms of number of voters in each state
The Electoral Commission has also worsened malapportionment by creating super-sized constituencies. After the redelineation, the top ten largest parliamentary constituencies have sizes ranging from 108,156 voters to 150,439 voters, much larger than their state average.
The top ten largest Federal Constituencies in Malaysia after boundary changes
No. of Voters
No. of Voters
P106 Petaling Jaya Utara
P105 Petaling Jaya Selatan
P105 Petaling Jaya
P104 Kelana Jaya
P111 Kota Raja
P111 Kota Raja
P138 Kota Melaka
P138 Kota Melaka
P162 Gelang Patah
P162 Iskandar Puteri
P159 Pasir Gudang
P159 Pasir Gudang
These constituencies are created by packing in predominantly opposition voters into already large constituencies.
(2) Subverting democracy by crowning the loser
The end-result of malapportionment is not only the violation of the one-person-one-vote principle across constituencies but may also be a complete subversion of democracy by crowning the loser if malapportionment is correlated with electoral strength.
And when the voters’ mandate for Parliament and government is insidiously distorted, the legitimacy of the entire political system is called into question, undermining political and economic stability.
In the 2013 general election, the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition only won 47% of the popular vote, but that translated into 60% of parliamentary constituencies, exactly because not only parliamentary constituencies are malapportioned, but constituencies won by the BN were markedly smaller than those won by the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat.
Based on the electorate figures used in the boundary changes exercises in the states of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, those constituencies won by the BN in 2013 would have only 48,228 voters on average while those won by the opposition would have nearly double the number, at 79,436. This means the BN may be returned to power again if it loses the majority vote.
Given the smallest 112 parliamentary constituencies contain only 33% of the total electorate, a simple parliamentary majority could theoretically be won with just 16.5% of the popular vote. This figure may go lower if votes are effectively split in muli-corner contests.
(Credits to: Dr Wong Chin Huat and Engage)
Latest electorate size for the 133 parliamentary constituencies won by the ruling coalition (Barisan Nasional) and the 89 parliamentary constituencies won by the Opposition (Pakatan Rakyat) in the 2013 general election.
In the most extreme of cases, a simple parliamentary majority could theoretically be won with just 16.5% of the popular vote, ie by obtaining 50%+1 votes for each of the 112 smallest constituencies.
(3) Partisan gerrymandering
Bersih 2.0 has also detected attempts to sway electoral results in marginal seats by transferring polling districts between constituencies based on voting patterns.
In Melaka, for example, five polling districts with strong opposition support were transferred out from P137 Bukit Katil (a marginal constituency) and packed into P138 Kota Melaka (a opposition stronghold). Based on a re-simulation of the 2013 general election voting patterns with the new boundaries after the changes, P137 Bukit Katil will switch from an opposition constituency into a ruling coalition constituency.
Packing of opposition voters by transferring polling districts based on voting pattern.
Illustration: Five polling districts with strong opposition support were transferred out from P137 Bukit Katil (a marginal constituency) and packed into P138 Kota Melaka (a opposition stronghold)
Similar gerrymandering, especially the packing of opposition supporters into super-sized constituencies, were also discovered in several other states such as Perak, Selangor, and Johor. Preliminary analysis shows that these would have a material effect on several marginal parliamentary constituencies across the country.
(4) Ethnic gerrymandering
In an interview with the New Straits Time on 29 March 2018, Electoral Commission chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah stated that ethnicity was one of the criteria considered during the boundary changes exercise.
Bersih 2.0 condemns and rejects the institutionalisation of race and ethnicity in our electoral system at the expense of local ties. Such action by the Electoral Commission and Hashim disregarding the conditions for boundary changes in the Federal Constitution is illegal, discriminatory and morally wrong.
In analysing the boundary changes report, the Electoral Commission has indeed conducted ethnic-based transfers of voters. This has resulted in 15 parliamentary constituencies, which were previously mixed constituencies before the changes, being transformed into eight predominantly Malay constituencies and seven predominantly Chinese constituencies.
Ethnic-based transfer of voters, creating new predominantly Malay constituencies
P59 BUKIT GANTANG
P101 HULU LANGAT
P121 LEMBAH PANTAI
P124 BANDAR TUN RAZAK
P137 BUKIT KATIL
Ethnic-based transfer of voters, creating new Chinese dominant constituencies
P104 KELANA JAYA
(5) Exclusion of 59% of parliamentary constituencies from boundary changes including the whole of Perlis, Pulau Pinang and Pahang
The Electoral Commission states that the boundary changes were made based on demographic and population changes over time due to development, but it failed to propose any changes – either excluding them from the first recommendations or having all changes reversed by the final recommendations – for the states of Perlis, Penang (for both state and parliamentary constituencies) and Pahang (for parliamentary constituencies).
The exclusion of Penang and Pahang are clearly unjustified from the standpoint of “approximately equal apportionment”. In its final report, the Electoral Commission stated that the number of voters in Penang has increased by 31.6%, ie from 659,155 voters since the last exercise in 2003 to 867,748 voters in 2015. Likewise, the number of voters in Pahang has increased by 33.5%, ie from 554,321 voters in 2003 to 740,023 in 2015.
Keeping the same boundaries hence sustains the severe malapportionment of parliamentary constituencies in Pahang and state constituencies in Penang, with the largest-to-smallest constituency ratio at 2.93 times and 1.68 times respectively.
In total, 96 out of 164 parliamentary constituencies up for possible boundary changes (excluding Putrajaya and Labuan) have the same boundaries as when the exercise started. They were excluded despite 20 of them being smaller than the state average by more than 33.33% (the 1962 constitutional standard) and seven of them being larger by more than 33.33%.
Number of parliamentary constituencies including outliers which retain same boundaries
Deviation from state average
In effect, voters in these states are deprived of the right to have their constituency boundaries redrawn for better representation and local ties. As there must be a gap of at least eight years for the next exercise to happen, voters in Penang and Pahang are effectively forced to use old constituency maps (based on the 2003 exercise) for 23 years because of the failure and incompetence of the Electoral Commission.
(6) The scam inquiries and recycling of the first recommendations
Ten parliamentary constituencies in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Kedah adopted the first recommendations, which had been ditched after the first round of inquiries.
This means the Electoral Commission had agreed with the objectors that their firstt recommendations were ill-planned; yet the same body soon readopted the recommendations. Most shockingly, the U-turn was not even based on any solid objections.
Recycled first recommendations in 14 parliamentary constituencies
Boundary change pattern
Status Quo -> 1st Proposal -> Status Quo -> 1st Proposal
Status Quo -> 1st Proposal -> 2nd Proposal -> 1st Proposal
(7) Prime minister’s failure to table boundary changes proposal for Sabah
As for Sabah, its state assembly amended its state constitution in 2016, adding 13 new state constituencies. The boundary changes report was completed and handed over to the prime minister on 21 February 2017, but he has chosen not to table the Sabah report in Parliament without any justification.
While the second recommendations for Sabah were badly malapportioned, raising concerns that the final recommendations may worsen the malapportionment of both parliamentary and state constituencies, the prime minister simply has no right to delay the tabling.
This is also a waste of public resources as the Electoral Commission has conducted two rounds of public displays and local inquiries before preparing the final report.
Voters must reject electoral manipulation by voting
Bersih 2.0 therefore reiterates its rejection of the whole boundary changes process and the final report that was tabled and passed in Parliament. The Electoral Commission has not only disregarded due process and constitutional procedures. It has also proposed recommendations that violate key principles required by the Constitution.
It is clear that the prime minister, Parliament, the Electoral Commission, the judiciary and the police were all complicit in rushing and ensuring that the boundary changes were passed at all costs – to influence and steal the upcoming general elections.
Bersih 2.0 urges all voters to reject electoral manipulation by ensuring that they vote in the upcoming general election. While we may not be able to stop the boundary changes from being passed, a high voter turnout will be able to reduce the impact of the electoral fraud and manipulation.
Satukan tenaga, keluar mengundi, kalahkan pencuri!
Steering committee of Bersih 2.0