More racially mixed seats needed for fairer representation, academic says

Dr Faisal Hazis speaks at the IDEAS Liberalism Conference 2016 in Kuala Lumpur September 24, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Dr Faisal Hazis speaks at the IDEAS Liberalism Conference 2016 in Kuala Lumpur September 24, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — A Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political scientist called today for the deconstruction and reform of existing election rules to curb the spread of racial and religious politics he said is damaging to the country.

Dr Faisal Hazis said that among other things, there is a need to “de-ethnicise” constituencies, adding that the Election Commission’s (EC) recent redelineation proposal only served to strengthen racial politics.

“We need to deconstruct the election rules. I think the proposed redelineation by the election commission recently, just strengthened ethnic politics,” he told a forum entitled at the Liberalism Conference 2016 organised by think tank, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).

He said that the first step forward was for Malaysians to realise the destructive effects of ethno-religious politics that is holding the country back from progress through the creation of legislation that caters only to one community instead of to all.

However, he said there was no need to ban ethnic-based parties as such a move would limit the freedoms that are fundamental to a democracy.

“I think being in a democracy, it is their (ethnic-based parties’) fundamental right to be in existence. But I think that you need to reform the election rules to de-ethnicise constituencies so that parties and politicians can make Bills meant for a larger audience and not just for a specific ethnicity,” he said.

Instead, the associate professor suggested the reform focus on how to improve representation in constituencies.

He suggested that alternatives could come in the form of making constituencies be more ethnically mixed, or that a proportionate representation system be implemented, whereby a constituency could have multiple representatives so even minority views are heard.

The EC’s proposal to redraw the boundaries of 12 parliamentary and 34 state constituencies in the peninsula and create 13 new state seats in Sabah drew flak from both Opposition parties and components in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, including MCA, Gerakan and SUPP expressing concern over the apparent segregation of voters along ethnic lines.

However, voters in an affected constituency have one month to file their objections and recommendations in a class action through the state government or local authorities.

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