Malays losing out in unfair drawing of electoral boundaries, say analysts

Dr Bridget Welsh

(TMI) – The Malay supremacist argument that election boundaries were drawn up in such a way as to give the Malay-Muslim community more power since the 1970s has actually done the reverse, a forum was told today.

Singapore Management University associate professor Dr Bridget Welsh said the votes of Malays living in urban areas are now worth less in value than those of Malays who live in rural areas because of disproportions between voter populations in rural and urban seats.

She was among speakers in the “Towards a Fairer Electoral System” forum that pointed that more Malays are moving and living in urban areas specifically in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and that their votes, with those of other urbanites, would be worth less if the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) continues to influence drawing election boundaries according to ethnic lines.

Their argument refutes claims, particularly by former Election Commission chief Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, that the commission had drawn up electoral boundaries, called redelineation, to protect Malay political power.

When he was in charge, Abdul Rashid had overseen four redelineation exercises.

Welsh said that Malaysia’s unequal electoral constituencies – where sparsely populated rural seats have more parliamentary representation than densely populated urban seats – have led to a situation where different Malaysians have different sets of political power.

“So you have Malays who go and live in Butterworth (Penang) for example, whose vote is one third the value of their parents who live in the kampungs,” said Welsh who has wide experience studying Malaysian politics.

“This discriminates against people who migrate to urban centres. It discriminates against the middle class and the young. This is not an issue of discrepancies between ethnic groups anymore,” she said.