This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on April 2, 2018 - April 8, 2018
REDELINEATION. I have always had trouble spelling the word and pronouncing it as well. I prefer “redrawing”. And as far as the electoral delineation process goes, it is the redrawing of electoral boundaries. That is what it is.
And with the Election Commission’s redelineation report tabled in parliament and passed (was there any doubt?), Barisan Nasional is set to win the 14th general election. That’s how analysts see the situation. One analyst says BN can retain power at the federal level by getting “just 42%” of the votes. Another puts it at 40%, and there is even one who says “just 33%” will be enough to do the job for the BN.
Obviously, they see that the redelineation would worsen, or has worsened, the malapportionment of constituencies. Many parliamentary and state constituencies are seeing changes in demographics — meaning the creation of mono-ethnic constituencies. There are more Malay majority seats while the number of non-Malay constituencies are smaller in number.
And this is supposed to be good for the BN? Well, yes. For Umno, that is. Apparently, the political reading is a majority of Malay voters will vote for Umno.
Is this entirely true? What about the “Malay tsunami” that some hope could sweep Pakatan Harapan into power? How about the presence of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that will make inroads for the opposition in the Malay heartland?
We can argue all that until the cows come home. But this piece is not about all that. This is about ethnic relations.
“Umno will win big but component parties will lose it all,” according to Dr Redzuan Othman of the Selangor think tank, Institut Darul Ehsan.
He told The Malaysian Insight that based on the institute’s studies, MCA, Gerakan and MIC “will be wiped out because of the shape and character of the new electoral boundaries”.
The issue, according to him, is “will the public accept such a result”?
The EC delineation report is wrapped in controversy. From the way it was drawn and rushed through parliament, the EC is seen as favouring BN and the exercise is unconstitutional, according to some. There is a long list of irregularities too.
The moral issue has always been a level playing field, fair polls and the fear of the general election being stolen.
But what is more frightening now is that this exercise is somehow segregating Malaysians and this will have subsequent long-term effects on race relations. I must agree with PKR MP Tian Chua who remarked sometime last year that “the issue is how do we create an electoral representation system that reflects the spirit of the constitution and Malaysia?”
To non-governmental organisation Tindak Malaysia, the redelineation process will result in increased ethnic segregation as “it packs different races into different constituencies”.
Against such a backdrop, the racial card will be played to the fullest. Religion will be exploited to the brim. Not that this is new. We had seen it in the past and we have continued to see such tactics being used to reap votes. This time though, expect divisive politics at its worst.
Voters will be “coerced” or “coaxed” into voting for their “own kind”. Again, this is not new but this time, it will be “upped to a new level” as more constituencies by default get racialised, polarised and segregated.
Hence, I ask, is the EC contributing towards the segregation of Malaysians?
Are we being pushed into becoming more polarised with the creation of ethic-based constituencies? Just to ensure a victory for the incumbent?
Needless to say, the long-term consequences will be disastrous and the country does not need a polarised citizenry.
GE14 will be a mammoth event. A lot is at stake, but not at the expense of Malaysians, please.
No reward is bigger than a united Malaysia, no matter what our political inclinations might be.
Mohsin Abdullah is a contributing editor. He has covered politics for over four decades.
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