The politics of redelineation of electoral boundary

When we talk about ‘politics’, political parties and elections come into the picture. Political parties compete with each other for the peoples’ votes and favours. Political parties participate in the electoral process with the intention of securing the mandate to form the government.

But politics is more than just about the political parties, the elections, and office-seeking. The whole idea of politics is also about manipulation, persuasion, and enticement.

There is no question that political leaders can help their parties to attain electoral success, but it would be naive to suggest that the other factors are not involved here.

The more safe seats a political party has, the higher the chance for the party to win the election.

What is a safe seat?

For a country like Malaysia, the people can be identified initially by their areas of residence. In Sarawak, for example, the Malays tend to live in the lower section of the river, the Iban in the middle section, and the Orang Ulu in the upper part.

The Bidayuh are fouud in the upper section of the river in the Kuching Division of the State.

Rural-urban migrations have brought many natives to the towns and cities, but the bulk majority of the people who live there are the ethnic Chinese.

The safe seats for the Malay party in Sarawak will be those electoral constituencies that are found in the lower section of the rivers in the state. By the same token, the safe seats for the Iban based political parties are those electoral constituencies that are located in the middle section of the river.

The safe seat for the Orang Ulu is the upper section of the river, while the Bidayuh constituencies are confined only to the Kuching Division.

Redelineation of the electoral boundary can impact on the number of safe seats for the various political parties in the state.

The Sarawak State constituencies were increased from 71 to 82. Before the 2016 state election, the opposition accounted for 22.5% of the state seats. After the election, they accounted for 12.2% of the state seats.

All the new state constituencies were won by the BN.

Did the redelineation exercise that was undertaken in 2015 influence the outcomes of the 2016 Sarawak state election?

Redelineation of the electoral boundaries often involves gerry-mandering, transfer of polling districts, and transfers of voters due to the creation of new constituencies and the renaming of the existing constituencies.

In this whole process, some parties obtain tremendous advantages, while some parties may lose some ground.

Administrative problems may arise when the polling districts are transfered to another constituency which falls under the jurisdiction of another administrative district. The other issue is the vast disparity of the number of voters in the different constituencies that is not addressed during the delineation exercise.

A recent proposal by the Election Commission to increase the number of Sabah state seats by 13 has been perceived by some political parties in the country including some from the BN as been an attempt to segregate the voters along racial and religious line. Is this what the country’s electoral system needs? Is this going to do any good for the nation?

A political party links the people to the government. Is it not easier for the party’s supporters to have access to the government and to the bureaucracy if the party has a lot of elected representatives?

A political party is also about an aggregation of interests of the groups that support it.

As the government and the bureaucracy are noramlly dominated by the largest ethnic group in the country, this means that the groups that don’t have that many elected respresentatives, such as the minority groups,  could be further marginalised.

For better equality and fairness, does it not constitute a good public policy to give the smaller groups a bigger represenation in the government whenever the delineation of the electoral boundary takes place? – Sarawakvoice