Analysts: Ethnicity to influence boundaries

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 16 Feb 2014

PETALING JAYA: Ethnic-based voting patterns are likely to influence how electoral boundaries will be redrawn, say political analysts.

Merdeka Centre co-founder Ibrahim Suffian said such a principle was likely to be adopted as it was the simplest and clearest way to redraw boundaries.

“The reality on the ground is that people live in rather ethnically homogenous neighbourhoods,” he said at a forum titled Towards a Fairer Electoral System organised by the Bar Council and Tindak Malaysia here yesterday.

Ibrahim added that this was also due to the prevalence of race-based political parties as well as an increased racialisation of politics.

Within this context, he said there were 80 marginal seats that would be interesting to observe.

The areas include southern Kedah, central Perak, northern Selangor, southern Johor and the Kadazan heartland in Sabah.

Ibrahim said in the long run, delineation based on ethnic distribution would not be a positive move because people want to have a sense of fairness in the system, and currently, urban voters felt that their votes counted far less than those in rural areas.

“It should be based on population size because it relates to services provided by the representatives,” he said, adding that the capping of the difference in the number of voters up to 30% between seats would be a good start, with gradual reductions over time.

In GE13, Barisan Nasional won 60% of the seats with 47% of the overall vote, while Pakatan Rakyat won 40% of the seats although they obtained 51% of the vote.

Frontier International Electoral Consulting president Dr Lisa Handley said the tolerance limit varies dramatically around the world.

“For example, Canada has a 25% tolerance limit, and they can go beyond that under extraordinary circumstances,” she said, adding that the most common tolerance limit was 10%.

Bar Council chairman Christopher Leong remarked that the difference was too vast – for instance, the Kapar parliamentary constituency had 144,159 voters while Sabak Bernam had 37,318, a difference of nearly four times.

Singapore Management Univer­sity’s political science associate professor, Dr Bridget Welsh, said ethnicity is a big factor in drawing electoral boundaries.

“However, history has shown that what works in one election will not necessarily work two elections down the road. In some cases, it (the earlier ethnic formulae thought to beneficial) can backfire,” she said.

The last redelineation exercise by the Election Commission was in March 2003.

In a statement, Tindak Malaysia said it would propose an electoral map that would help ease the pressure on the EC.

It said its effort would not only help ease EC’s workload, but also help deflect some of the unfair accusations and demands heaped upon the commission.

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