The Redelineation exercise is meant to make parliamentary representation more equitable, to the interest of those with less bargaining power.
To discuss this issue, first thing to READ, is the article within the Constitution that allows for redelineation :
“Article 113 (2) (i) Subject to paragraph (ii), the election Commission shall, from time to time, as they deem necessary, review the division of the Federation and the States into constituencies and recommend such changes therein as they may think necessary in order to comply with the provisions contained in the thirteenth Schedule; and the reviews of constituencies for the purpose of elections to the Legislative Assemblies shall be undertaken at of elections to the house of Representatives.”
This provision gave power to Parliament in general to recommend changes and reviews of constitutencies. This is in line with the preservation of Article 46 of the Constitution, which allow for the Creation of New Parliamentary seats by way of a constitutional amendment to it.
If you wondered what happened in year 2003, the oberall Redelineation effort also included the increment of parliamentary and state assembly seats by way of a constitutional Amendment of Article 46, among others.
During this 2003 redelineation effort which requires the approval of 2/3 Parliament for constitutional amendment, in Selangor alone the Election Commission created 22 new seats!
Not suprising, the ruling party subsequently won it’s biggest number of seats in the 2004 General Election adapting this new redelineation structure with many new seats created.
It is very tempting, and to a huge extend, to say that, the 2018 Redelineation effort is to favour the ruling party. Many among us argued that yesterday and today.
However Political Scientist Dr Brian Rathbun (2007) raised an interesting point on conflict between “equality” and “fairness” in drawing up constituencies line.
According to Dr Brian Rathbun, popular system (which focus on equal numbers of voters in constituencies) is “mathematically too simplistic and doesn’t take into account socio-economical factor,”
He further claimed that a country that implements a popular voting system, failed in practicing “Democracy” from two aspect :- Legislative aspect (1) and Sociological aspect (2).
Take a simplistic (for the sake of the point) example, say, 60% of the electorates are urbanites, while remaining 40% are rural folks. In a popular voting system where constituencies are drawn purely based on Equal distribution of voters, The Government who won the election will only need to announce measures/policies/manifestos that would secure the 60% urbanites to win a popular vote.
Reducing petrol price (assume that the consumption of petrol is minimal and insignificant in rural areas), Providing low cost housing for urban poors, or, using “English” as main medium of education which would excites alot of urbanites etc, will put the rural folks at a very disadvantaged position. Their voices NEED NOT be heard because they can never affect the winning of a government. Governing party will never be incentivised or motivated to allocate Government budget towards this fraction of the society.
In fact, in many countries that adopts popular system, where number of constituents in a constituency does not differ much from one another, the views and interest of citizens from rural or sub-urban areas are always not taken into equal consideration.
Whereas based on Dr Rathbun’s ideology, the Electoral System factors in socio-economical considerations. Greatest theorist and jurist on “Democracy”, one like Finis or Rawls pressumably (rawls is more direct) in their writings accorded a more holistic interpretation to democracy – that “Majority wins” is not the most essential aspect of democracy, there are rules against tyrannism, and eveyrone’s interest (fundamental human rights) must be taken into consideration.
An Electoral styled redelineation system effectively takes into account the interest of people not only as “individual”, but also factors in sociological (rural urban), cultural (in Malyasia, perhaps Religion is factored in too), economical (poor, middle class, rich) and various others in the form of “WEIGHTAGE”.
Take another simplisticview as an example, Damansara has 150,000 voters who are middle class and working class. their needs/wants/desire from the government are likened to those of urbanites. And due to the density of the constituency, a MP can easily access, logistically to the 150,000 voters because they are staying within a small area and vicinity of the constituency.
On the other hand, you have people who stays in PADANG RENGAS, with , say, 35,000 voters who are farmers, fisherman, and working level citizens.
Lets assume Malaysia only has 2 constituency, of DAMANSARA and PADANG RENGAS. in a Equal Distribution system, people of DAMANSARA shall dictate how policies are make through their MP/Government (they will win). the policies will then be purely targeting middle/upper income. People in PADANG RENGAS who are farmers will never get a say. their numbers are too low to make a different.
Look at Electoral System. if Malaysia practices Electoral System, you then can see People from PADANG RENGAS (after factoring in their socio-economical background), be given a say on how policies are made. At the end, you SACRIFICE EQUALITY, but in return you get FAIRNESS. (Rahtbun 2007)
You now then ask, which system should Malaysia , and as a matter of fact, the “World” adopt? Fairness, or equality (in respect to sociological, cultural, and economical background)?
Many effective and advanced countries, in a way or another will implement the electoral system to protect the interest of weaker groups.
Take for example, in Australia, the Senate (upper house) of Australia is very powerful, it can veto (block) bills from the lower house. In fact, the Australian Constitutional Crisis happened decades ago, when it’s Senate refused to approve the Budget bill, forcing it’s Government General to suspend and fire the Prime Minister since he couldn’t get the Budget bill passed to run the Government expenses, forcing another General Election.
In this powerful Senate of Australia, Every states have 12 senators (except Northern Territory), regardless of the size of the populus. Victoria state has 6million population, while Western Australia has 2.6million population, but both states has 12 senators each representing them in the upper house. Therefore, can we say that the Election in Australia is stolen? Because it is very difficult for the political parties to campaign in Victoria states, to have to campaign to 6 million people, while political parties only need to win 2.6million western Australia to gain similar (12) representation in the senate of Australia.
Even in the USA, where it’s senate has the power to not affirming Judges, among others, every State in US regardless of size, has only 2 senators. California, with 40 million populations, only has 2 Senators representing them, whereas State like Wyoming, with only half a million population (1/80 of California), is also represented by 2 Senator.
Therefore, in the US Senate, the value of vote of a citizen in Wyoming, is 80times to that of a Californian.
As a conclusion, the electoral system , however undesirable to the taste of many, is in place to ensure that those who are in position with less bargaining power, are adequately represented in the Houses of parliament or the legislative. We may disagree with this principle, but there should always be a way balance the interest of the less advantaged.
TAI ZEE KIN