KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 ― The quality of Malaysia's electoral boundaries used in the general elections last year has been ranked the worst out of 66 countries in a global study on the integrity of elections.
The findings of the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) based in the University of Sydney and Harvard University, released in February, showed that Malaysia’s 13th general election last May scored just 28 out of a maximum of 100 points on the electoral boundary indicator.
“The experts’ perceptions suggest that the voting districts were not impartial and discriminated against some parties, since they strongly favour rural constituencies as opposed to urban ones,” Max Groemping, doctoral researcher with the EIP team, told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.
“The size of constituencies is unequal, so that rural districts often represent fewer voters than urban one. That means that it takes fewer rural voters to determine one seat. This is called ‘malapportionment’,” he added.
The study was based on expert opinion on the electoral integrity of 73 elections in 66 countries, held between July 1, 2012, to December 31, 2013.
Groemping noted that Barisan Nasional (BN) stands to benefit from the way the electoral boundaries are currently drawn as the ruling coalition appears to enjoy strong support in rural areas.
“This shows in the fact that the ruling party gained almost 60 per cent of seats with only about 47 per cent of the popular vote,” he said.
The study’s 100-point Perception of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index, where a higher score denotes a more positive evaluation, the United States (US) ranked second-worst on the electoral boundary indicator, scoring just 33 points.
Malaysia’s neighbour Cambodia scored 44 points on the electoral boundary indicator, while the only other Southeast Asian country on the list, the Philippines, scored 61.
South Korea scored 73, while the quality of Czech Republic’s electoral boundaries were ranked the best at 81 points.
According to the study, the overall electoral integrity of Malaysia’s election was rated near the bottom of the pile, with the May 5 general polls coming in at 66th out of 73 elections in the PEI survey based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University.
The study found that experts viewed Malaysia’s general election in 2013 as having low levels of integrity due to problematic electoral boundaries and election laws.
“It is beyond the scope of the report to make specific policy recommendations to particular countries. But the experts’ perceptions would suggest that Malaysia could benefit from more evenly sized electoral districts, in order to minimise the ‘wasted vote effect’ due to malapportionment,” Groemping told The Malay Mail Online.
Electoral reform groups have been pushing for a fairer redrawing of electoral boundaries ahead of the country’s constituency re-delineation exercise.
The Star daily reported in February that Election watchdog, Bersih 2.0, will start a campaign to recruit and educate people on the re-delineation exercise, focusing on states where the group said gerrymandering was likely.