In the run up to this year’s final sitting of Parliament, I submitted a motion for a vote of no confidence towards the Election Commission. For reasons that can only be said to be unjustifiable, my motion was rejected by Parliament and will not see the light of day. But, after another unprecedented outpouring of support during last weekend’s Bersih 5 rally, the Government can no longer deny that the demand for clean government and fair elections is now the rallying cry of Malaysians of every race, religion and political hue.
The September 2016 redelineation proposal from the clearly partisan Election Commission is possibly the most heinous crime against justice and democracy yet; and the ruling party’s rejection to even discuss or debate these actions are redoubling pressure on a frustrated and dissatisfied electorate.
Additionally, the cruel cynicism of PM Najib to arrest peaceful democracy activist Maria Chin under draconian legislation allegedly intended for terrorists is a glaring example of a government running roughshod, unchecked and unregulated, thanks to gerrymandering and unconstitutional redelineation.
Despite the ongoing dragnet pre and post rally, and her twenty-eight day confinement in sub-human conditions, Maria Chin’s BERSIH has successfully galvanised the likes of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, KEADILAN, DAP, AMANAH and BERSATU leaders in a show of force against Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling elite. This momentum on the streets will only grow if the electoral system will not be justly resolved. What does the Najib government expect from the rakyat when every avenue is being obstructed by the whims of the kleptocratic elite?
The EC’s redelineation proposal has caused much controversy across the political spectrum. Even component parties from Barisan Nasional have protested the EC’s redelineation, including Gerakan, MCA, SUPP and MIC. Conversely, all parties in the opposition – KEADILAN, DAP, Amanah and Bersatu – have united in our objection against the indefensible gerrymandered proposal.
The Election Commission’s flawed redelineation proposal has violated the Federal Constitution. Specifically, for having large discrepancies between the electorate sizes of neighbouring constituencies, the EC violates Section 2(c) of the Federal Constitution which states that “the number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal”. By partitioning neighbourhoods and arbitrarily combining communities, the EC disrupts the “maintenance of local ties” mandated under Section 2(d) of the Constitution.
Therefore, on the grounds that the EC must strictly adhere to the Thirteenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution but has fallen far short in its conduct, this parliamentary session, I put forth a motion for Members of Parliament to cast a vote of no confidence against the EC.
However, my efforts were thwarted by Speaker of Parliament Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia. On 17 October 2016, his response to my request for a vote of no confidence cited rejection in view of Standing Order 23(2) of the Malaysian Parliament. In Pandikar’s view, a vote for no confidence against the EC would be considered “an abuse of the right of questioning, or calculated to obstruct or, affect prejudicially the procedure of the House, or to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities in the Federation”.
The explanation issued by Parliament is baffling. How is a vote of no confidence — the act of assessing the EC’s fitness in performing its responsibilities — an abuse of a parliamentarian’s right of questioning? How is a vote of no confidence — that reasserts the EC’s accountability to the Malaysian public — an act that promotes feelings of ill-will between communities?
In fact, it is the EC that is guilty of manipulating communities.
Malaysia’s seventh attempt at redelineation reflects an unprecedented extent of self-serving, racial manipulation. The changes to my constituency P121 Lembah Pantai is one such example. By reducing the electorate size in my constituency by nearly 10,000 people, the Malay voters will increase from 55.44% to 65.59% to the electorate. Conversely, the Chinese voters will dwindle from 22.81% to 15.71%, while the Indian voter population will also shrink from 19.82% to 16.26%. What is happening to my constituency is not an anomaly. For instance, P074 Lumut will see its Malay electorate increase from 51% to 71% — an incredulous 20% surge! In essence, the EC’s redelineation proposal will convert many racially-mixed seats to homogeneous, mono-ethnic majority seats. Malaysia has always prided itself on being a pluralistic society, a melting pot of cultural pluralism! Should the identity of a constituency be defined by race, only the unhealthy politics of race and religion will be encouraged.
The EC has always reflected an obnoxious attitude that disparages Malaysians. In June 2016, KEADILAN found that more than 1,000,000 voters were subjected to a change in voting districts. Amongst the 1,000,000 voters, 118,775 voters will now be forced to vote at other state legislative assemblies (DUN) while 41,850 individuals will also be involuntarily switched to parliamentary constituencies that differ from the constituencies they voted at prior to this change. Bersih 2.0, who propagates this message also noted that these changes took place even though their addresses remained unchanged throughout the years.
The EC is classifying the Malaysian society by race and forcing people into constituencies they do not belong in are. This, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, is what truly reflects a manipulation of communities, and not a vote of no confidence against the perpetrator.
As such, I can only conclude that Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia’s decision to block my proposal for a vote of no confidence is a politically biased decision in a bid to consolidate the federal ruling party’s power. Beyond that, the gravest transgression is that this decision by Parliament compromises our right to vote and obstructs the fulfilments of civil liberties in Malaysia. The solidarity that throngs of Malaysians showed during Bersih 5.0 reflects our demand for a reform in the electoral system. Unfortunately, our Parliament insists on looking nothing like the people it represents.
NURUL IZZAH ANWAR
Member of Parliament Lembah Pantai
Vice President and Election Director of KEADILAN