Human Rights Party, PRM should join others in the struggle

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In the absence of a proportional representation system, the best strategy for any small party is to work together with other parties under a collective desire to get rid of injustices – and in the process touch the hearts of the long-suffering poor, says Choo Sing Chye.

As the general election looms closer, I would by most humble means try to provide some comments on the Human Rights Party’s (HRP) and Parti Rakyat Malaysia’s (PRM) strategies in the coming elections.

Your party’s 15/38 strategy “to create, win in and create politically empowered 15 parliamentary and 38 state Indian majority seats” and Koh Swe Yong, secretary-general of PRM’s plan (The Star, 7 June 2010) to contest as many seats as possible in the coming elections will test or better still crack the iron-clad feudal first-past-the-post electoral system to ‘empower’ the minorities – this had never happened before in history, either in Malaysia or in Great Britain.

One of the main factors that makes British politics lag behind other European countries is the first-past-the post electoral system.

Many political scientists had described this first-past-the-post electoral system as faulty. Is this the reason why: in the 1983 British General Election, the Conservatives won only 40 per cent of the votes but obtained 60 per cent of the Commons seats. [1]

The first-past-the-post electoral system is the most undemocratic electoral system ever devised and it is ludicrous that it is still in existence today. It has never given the minority a voice like yours a chance to flourish in our political system. It should have disappeared long ago along with the ending of the feudal system in Great Britain.

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Any good electoral system should encompass the principle of ‘one person, one vote, one value’, but unfortunately it is not to be in the case of first-past-the-post system. Sadly we are stuck with this deformed electoral system, which we inherited since Merdeka from the British.

In Great Britain, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – or as most Malaysians might call ‘the third force’ – has been consistently unrepresented, “gaining about 30 per cent of the votes in some elections but no more than just over 1 per cent of the seats (in the region of 20 to 30 seats”) [2]

The 1992 British general election saw the LDP securing more than 20 per cent of the votes, winning only a measly 20 seats. Ironically, the Labour Party, which secured only 34.4 per cent of the votes, won 271 seats in the House of Commons. [3]

If the principle of one person, one vote, one value were to be applied to this election, LDP should have got around 130 seats instead of 20. It thus lost out on a whooping 110 seats in the 1992 general election alone. In turn, the Labour Party should have got around 224 seats and not 271.

Apparently it took less than 40,000 votes for one Conservative MP to be voted in, slightly more than 40,000 for a Labour MP but for the Liberal/Alliance (only in 1983) it needed more the 338,000 votes (seven times as many votes) just to get an MP into the House of Commons. [4]

In Pennsylvania, USA, in 1924 the Republican Party won about one million votes and took 36 seats in the state election, while the Democrat Party won over half a million votes and took not even a single seat. [5]

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In the case of Malaysia, where the first-past-the-post system is coupled with the lopsided media, the biased Election Commission has kept Barisan Nasional in power for the last 50 over years.

In our country, as it is known that there is not a single Indian majority seat. Not because it has none. It is the product of Barisan Nasional’s gerrymandering.

Here is one example, the Buntong State seat (Perak) has a voters’ population of 21,682 (Malays 6.1 per cent, Chinese 47 per cent, Indians 46.2 per cent). Compare this with the Pengkalan Hulu seat won by Former Menteri Besar, Tajol Rosli which has only 11,717 voters (Malay 72.6 per cent, Chinese 12.1 per cent Indians 9.3 %). In other words, the vote value of Pengkalan Hulu is twice that of Buntong’s.

If the concept of one value is applied, Buntong should be split into two constituencies – one with a Chinese majority and the other with an Indian majority. In the Indian majority seat, there would be at least 50 over per cent of Indian voters.

With the Barisan Nasional’s gerrymandering and the unfair first-past-the-post system what chance have we got? Our voices will always remain unheard. In contrast, this unfairness benefits the super rich Malays, Chinese and Indians.

To replace the first-past-the-post system with a Proportional Voting system is near impossible. Although this system sees a fairer distribution of votes and the votes cast reflect closely with the seats won, nobody in Barisan Nasional wants it for it will spell the end to its monopoly on political power.

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The only way out for any party is to evolve into a coercive group and to move forward under one collective desire to get rid of injustices and in the process, similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s direct democracy, touch the hearts of the long-suffering poor Malays, Chinese, Indians and the East Malaysians with compassion, sincerity, openness and fairness, without planting the seeds of hatred along the way.

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