KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — The Election Commission's proposed redrawing of electoral boundaries would further dilute the value of votes when it should be seeking to equalise this between constituencies, said Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru.
Pointing out that variances between seats in some states were as much as 476 per cent, Steven said a 1976 constitutional amendment that allowed discrepancies in the sizing of constituencies was made when the urban-rural divide was more severe.
He said this was no longer the case today, and that the EC should instead strive to ensure that each vote would have the same worth as another in a different constituency.
Steven further said that massive discrepancies such as between Sabak Bernam (37,318) and Kapar (144,159) — a difference of 386 per cent — were wholly unacceptable, as the 13th Schedule of the Constitution states that voter numbers in each state constituency should comparable.
“The Malaysian Bar highlights that providing for approximately equal number of electors in each constituency in a state is not only constitutionally required, but is also a universally accepted practice that underlines the hallowed principle of 'one person, one vote, one value,'” he said in a statement.
“The only acceptable departure from this principle is with regard 'to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and the other disadvantages facing rural constituencies', where 'a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to such constituencies'. This is a safeguard against the willy-nilly manipulation of boundaries of constituencies.”
Citing the exception for sizing discrepancies, Steven said the EC's continuation of variations between seats was tantamount to saying that movement between even urban areas in Malaysia still required “great difficulty” after over four decades of development.
The EC last month notified the public of its proposal to redelineate 12 parliamentary seats and 34 state seats nationwide.
The federal seats affected include one in Kedah, three seats in Perak, five in Selangor, one in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, one in Negri Sembilan and one in Johor.
The five affected parliamentary seats in Selangor and the sole Kuala Lumpur seat are currently held by the federal Opposition.
Opposition MPs have noted, however, that the exercise also involves a massive transferring of voters, with Petaling Jaya Utara — which will be renamed Damansara — going from around 85,000 voters from 2013 to over 150,000 voters under the change.
Comparatively, Putrajaya, which is held by Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, has around 18,000 voters, or just 12 per cent of what the Damansara seat would have.
The EC came under criticism from affected political parties and was also forced to deny that the proposal was engineered to maintain Umno's political power.
Steven today pointed out the serious concern surrounding the proposed redelineation when noting the “astounding” 836 representation objections filed against the exercise, adding that objectors should be allowed legal representation during the inquiry.