EC chief wants to re-introduce clauses for equality in electoral boundaries

EC chairman Datuk Azhar Harun hopes to lower the voter disparity gap among constituencies in the country. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
EC chairman Datuk Azhar Harun hopes to lower the voter disparity gap among constituencies in the country. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 12 ― Election Commission (EC) chairman Datuk Azhar Harun is hoping to make three proposals that will affect electoral boundaries and elections in the future, including lowering the voter disparity gap among constituencies in the country.

Azhar said that changes were guided by the main principle of equality, giving effect to the one man one vote principle.

He said he would propose for the reinstatement of Article 116 (3) to (5) of the Federal Constitution, a safeguard put in place in 1957 which provides for equal distribution in terms of population numbers as well as racial makeup to reflect the Federation as much as possible.

The clauses were removed in 1963 when the Thirteenth Schedule was introduced, taking away the EC’s absolute power and giving way to the Prime Minister who could modify it before laying it before Parliament.

Azhar said he was seeking to reinstate the safeguard which were the aspirations of the Federation’s forefathers.

“Clause four provides that the margin of disparity should be 15 per cent. If we decide to reinstate that, we need to undertake a deeper analysis as to how many the margin of disparity should be - whether its 15 or 10 per cent. We need to because I don’t like unilateral decisions.

The second proposal is whether to maintain weightage given to rural areas where the area is vast but the population small.

“Currently there is a weightage and we have to consider whether we want to maintain that.

“That means we have to engage with everyone and the formula for the weightage must be defined clearly. Now there is no formula. It leaves a lot of room for interpretative discretion or abuses. If we want to maintain the weightage, I want the formula to be clearly defined,” he said.

Azhar said that another change it wanted to make was to put in place a robust check and balance by introducing an independent body that would look at redelination proposals.

“Currently, the EC puts out the proposals and is open to public scrutiny and objections but the objections is heard by the EC who gets to make the final decision. This is against the doctrine of natural justice.

“To me, it does not make sense for the EC to judge its own actions. There is no check and there is no balance. So there must be an independent body to hear the objections,” he said.

Azhar said that he would put forward his thoughts to the EC’s board of committee who will discuss it and present their proposal to Parliament.

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