Over the past few months, you likely would have read or heard news on the delimitation (also known as redelineation) exercise being undertaken by the Elections Commission (EC).
Many quarters have criticised and objected the proposals for delimitation put forth by the EC. Legal proceedings have been initiated by individuals as well as a state government against the Commission on various aspects of the delimitation exercise. This article will not delve into the legal issues in those legal proceedings. Instead, this article will attempt to provide a concise summary of the whole process.
The delimitation process is provided for by the Federal Constitution. Firstly, the Federal Constitution creates the institution of the Elections Commission, which is tasked to carry out elections to the Dewan Rakyat as well as the Legislative Assemblies of the various states throughout the Federation. The Commission is also tasked to prepare and review the electoral roll for the elections.
Delineation is one of the responsibilities mandated upon the Commission. The Commission is tasked to come up with proposals relating to the delimitation exercise. From time to time, the Commission shall, from time to time, as it deems necessary, review the division of the Federation and the States into constituencies and recommend such changes therein as they may think necessary.
After undertaking the review, the Commission may make proposals for changes to the constituencies in order to comply with the provisions contained in the Federal Constitution.
The Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution lays down the principles that must be taken into account in this process. The principles include the administrative facilities available within the constituencies for the establishment of the necessary registration and polling machines and the maintenance of local ties.
The principles also include ensuring that the number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal. However, regard must also be given to the disadvantages that rural constituencies face, so a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to these rural constituencies.
After the review is conducted and the proposals drafted, the Commission must then issue a notice in the government gazette and local newspapers on the proposals and display the proposals at public places to be viewed by the public.
Within 1 month from the date of the notice, any party that wish to object to the proposals may submit it to the Commission. If there are objections from any state government, local government or any group of 100 registered voters in any constituency, who are affected by the proposals, then the Commission must conduct a local inquiry for those constituencies.
In the local inquiry, representations may be made by the objectors as to why the objections are lodged.
The Commission may either accept the representations made at the inquiries, or reject them. If the Commission make changes to the proposals, a fresh notice must be issued.
After that, a report will be prepared and given to the Prime Minister, showing the details of the proposals. The Prime Minister will then table the report to the Dewan Rakyat, along with a draft order on the proposals.
If proposals are rejected by the Dewan Rakyat or withdrawn with leave of the Dewan, the Prime Minister after consulting with the Commission may amend the draft and table the proposals to the Dewan Rakyat again.
If the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat approve the draft, it will then be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who will then make the order in the terms of the draft order. The order will then come into force at a date specified.
The delimitation process currently taking place will directly or indirectly effect all of us as voters. As such, it is imperative that voters are aware of the process as provided for by the Federal Constitution.
*The writer is a lawyer and as a declaration of interest, is also involved in two of the legal proceedings relating to the current delimitation exercise.