Should Race Matter in Politics?

Haris Ibrahim

By Mak Khuin Weng

There’s been a lot of messages going out about the need to oppose changes to the redeliniation exercise by the Election Commission (EC). To help with the objection exercise, Haris Ibrahim (pic) gave a breakdown for the proposed Petaling Jaya Parliamentary seat and argues that the exercise should be opposed as it would become a super-sized seat with 129,636 voters clumped together, up from 79,558 voters.

This proposed parliamentary seat would have the Bukit Gasing, Taman Medan and Seri Setia state seats all clumped under it.

The creation of a supersized voting constituency with more than 100,000 voters is certainly a good enough reason to object the redelineation because no politician can possibly serve such a large number of constituents well. Indeed, where would the politician find time to see all the different communities and address their different needs?

But the analysis does not stop there. It goes on to break down the racial composition that would make the seats into a Malay majority area where Malays would make up 42%, Chinese 36% and Indians 20%. Prior to this, the parliamentary seat’s voter profile was 40% Malay, 42% Chinese and 16% Indians.

Is this profile important to voters?

Haris argues that this is important for the following reasons:

1. There would be a shift of mostly non-Malay voters to Bukit Gasing from Taman Medan and Damansara Utama, ensuring that BN would lose Bukit Gasing by an even bigger margin while giving Taman Medan a better chance of falling into BN’s hands.

2. Seri Setia would also have a bigger chance to fall to Umno / BN as more Malay voters are also being shifted in to this state seat from other areas.

All these electoral seats are controlled by Pakatan lawmakers and the local governments that service these residents are also answerable to Pakatan lawmakers. The Menteri Besar is the one person that is empowered to appoint local councilors, council presidents and mayors. These people in turn have the power to hire and fire council staff as they deem fit, as per the Local Government Act 1976.

No amount of gerrymandering along racial lines would affect voter loyalty if all these areas under Pakatan’s stewardship were well taken care of. Taman Medan and Seri Setia would not be in danger of being lost to BN.

About the only reason why Pakatan can still feel threatened by the redelineation exercise after eight years of governing Selangor is because their track record is not able to eclipse the prevalent nature in which voters decide whom to vote for based on racial and religious factors.