After voting age win, Bersih draws Pakatan’s attention to heavily-lopsided seats

Justin Ong
An Election Commission officer makes final preparations for the by-election at a polling centre in Sekolah Kebangsaan Nyatoh in Rantau April 12, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 urged Pakatan Harapan (PH) today to address the issue of constituency malapportionment to provide Malaysians with fairer representation.

In a message congratulating lawmakers for successfully amending the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 yesterday, the group said imbalanced voting constituency sizes was the next area in urgent need of reform.

“The PH manifesto Promise 17 stated that there will be a fair ratio in future delimitation exercises and announce transparently to the public the formula being used to determine the number of voters and the size of each constituency.

“The scale of malapportionment of constituencies would now be exacerbated through the lowering of voting age and automatic voters’ registration,” the group said in a statement.

Malapportionment of voters is a long-standing complaint regarding the Malaysian electoral system, due to its perceived dilution of the value of votes in large constituencies versus smaller ones.

The Federal Constitution in its original form contained a safeguard against this, limiting the difference between the largest and smallest constituencies to no more than 15 per cent, but this was removed by two subsequent amendments.

This has resulted in some federal constituencies containing over 180,000 voters while others may have fewer than 20,000.

Bersih 2.0 also urged the government to withdraw the Bill to add 13 new state seats in Sabah as doing so would prevent a fresh redelineation for another eight years unless the Federal Constitution is again amended,

It further suggested that PH consider reforming the first-past-the-post system currently employed in Malaysian elections for a fairer and more representative format.

Federal lawmakers from both sides of the aisle voted unanimously to amend the Federal Constitution in order to give the vote to Malaysians aged 18 and over.

The change will also allow 18-year-olds to run for office and for Malaysians to be automatically registered as voters once they become eligible.

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