Gerrymandering in Malaysia…and Elsewhere

Partyforumseasia: In its August 9th -15th 2014 issue, The Economist, a British weekly, is taking up the gerrymandering issue which a majority of Malaysian voters may have forgotten already after the last election in May 2013. That is the normal all over the world because manipulation of the electoral boundaries happens outside media attention and looks nearly legally correct. GerrymanderingThe ruling Barisan Nasional won 60% of the seats with only 47% of the vote, whereas the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition garnered 51% of the popular vote but was left with only 40% of the seats in Parliament. Malaysia, as a former British colony, adopted the British first-past-the-post electoral system which is designed to create strong majorities, irrespective of the distribution of the popular vote. To make the system even more “efficient”, the commissions in charge of delineating the constituency boundaries may carve them in a partisan way if they are close to one of the competing parties or coalitions. This is called gerrymandering and started in 1812, when the governor Elbridge Garry of Masschusetts created an electoral district which looked like a salamander on the map and was clearly favorable for his Democratic Republican Party. Until today, according to the ACE Project or Electoral Knowledge Network (, the USA is still at the extreme end of the spectrum between independent and partisan election commissions: “At one end of the spectrum is the United States, where the redistricting process is very political and decentralised. The responsibility for drawing districts for the United States Congress rests individually with the fifty states. There are few limitations on the states, and the boundary authorities are almost always political entities, i.e., state legislatures.
At the other end of the spectrum are many of the Commonwealth countries, where politicians have opted out of the redistricting process and granted the authority to redistrict to neutral or independent commissions.GB ConstituenciesLink here

Britain has done and is doing a lot to adjust the electoral boundaries to the demographic changes and create fair chances for the competing parties. The average number of voters per district is around 75,000 with few exceptions like East Ham (London) at 91,531 and Orkney and Shetland at 33,755 (2010).

The crux in Malaysia is that a defined maximum variation (normally 10-15%) has been taken out of the constitution and that it can reach several hundred percent. Sure, the rural constituencies in Sabah and Sarawk are difficult to administer, but Indonesia is geographically even more difficult and has managed the parliamentary and presidential elections this year much better.The Malaysian Election Commission is handpicked by the government anyway, but it does not look good that its former chairman has joined the Barisan National’s right-wing support group Perkasa.

Malaysia: Reforms in UMNO and the upcoming election

Straits Times, Singapore, 24 November 2012

Partyforumseasia: Internal power struggles and rampant vote-buying in party elections have damaged the image of the party and disillusioned rank and file members. Under the pressure of the heavy 2008 losses, PM Najib has started reforms inside the party. Will it be enough to rally enough member support for the upcoming elections? And will it give more influence to UMNO members vis-a-vis the influential leaders with access to big funding?

Singapore: PAP prepares for biennial party conference on December 2

Normally, there is not too much information about internal activities of the PAP in Singapore. Here is some insight into engagement of the membership in preparation for the biennial party conference on Dec.2. The article states:
“The discussions were organised first at the PAP’s 87 branches before moving up to its five districts and involved more than 800 people in all. The sessions centered on five broad themes:

  • Moving fast – staying firm
  • Fulfilling individual aspirations – achieving societal goals
  • Giving our best – sharing our nest
  • Globally competitive – locally connected
  • Inclusive politics – decisive government

Results of and ideas from the discussions could be channelled to the ongoing national conversation.


Are members the backbone of PAS’s campaigns?

Malaysia: PAS members as backbone of election campaigns

Click above for pdf-article

Comment Partyforum: According to this article PAS can rely on its 1 million members to run the election campaign.The dominant parties in SEA with their access to big funds can buy their campaigns and don’t need the grassroots. The interesting question is whether the PAS rank and file membership has more say in the party than, say, UMNO members.

Opinions and contributions welcome!