EC chief: Malaysia-wide redelineation before GE14 possible without legal roadblocks

Election Commission chairman, Datuk Seri Hashim Abdullah speaks to Malay Mail Online during an interview at his office in Putrajaya, February 23, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Election Commission chairman, Datuk Seri Hashim Abdullah speaks to Malay Mail Online during an interview at his office in Putrajaya, February 23, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 27 ― The redelineation of electoral boundaries for the entire country can be completed before the next general election due in 2018 if there are no legal challenges to the exercise, the Election Commission (EC) has said.

New EC chairman Datuk Seri Hashim Abdullah confirmed that the redelineation exercise for Sabah will take place after this year's Sarawak state election, followed by peninsular Malaysia.

“We will have to look and assess the situation in every state, there is no guarantee that all states (in Malaysia) need to undergo a redelineation exercise.

“We can complete it before the election comes in 2018, provided there are no disruptions like legal challenges in court,” he told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview, referring to an application filed last year to challenge the EC's redelineation exercise in Sarawak.

In October last year, the Federal Court dismissed an application for leave to challenge the planned redelineation of the state's electoral boundaries.

The EC's proposal for the number of state seats in Sarawak to be increased from 71 to 82 was subsequently passed in Parliament with a simple majority two months later.

“But if there are disruptions and challenges, the entire redelineation exercise can take longer to complete, possibly even after 2018,” Hashim explained.

“For Sarawak, we need to increase the number of states (constituencies) because some seats there are even bigger than some states in Peninsular Malaysia.

“People claim that with the seat increase, people can be brought in illegally to place votes for a certain party but this is not true, I have not seen this happen yet,” the EC chief said.

Each redrawing of constituency limits may be conducted no fewer than eight years after the previous exercise; the EC last carried out a redelineation in 2003.

The redrawing of electoral boundaries in Malaysia is contentious due to the allegations of gerrymandering, which critics such as electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 say is designed to keep Barisan Nasional in power.

The Federal Constitution had once stipulated that the variance between the largest and smallest constituencies may not exceed 15 per cent, but the limit was later removed via an constitutional amendment.

Despite severe malapportionment in some constituencies ― with the largest ten times bigger than the smallest ― the EC maintains that geographical factors prevent it from ensuring fair representation in all seats.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said last year he will call for a general election only when his mandate expires in 2018.