Saturday, February 27, 2016

No more boundary redrawing exercise like Sarawak, polls watchdog tells EC

Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 hopes the Election Commission's redelineation plan for the country before the 14th general election will not be a repeat of its exercise in Sarawak last year Bersih chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said they wanted the EC to be upfront with information on the redelineation exercises. "We don't want another case like Sarawak. The people were not given enough information on the redelineation. "We hope the EC won't be keeping information at a minimum after this. The EC has to be transparent and accountable," she told The Malaysian Insider. EC chairman Datuk Seri Hashim Abdullah had reportedly said the commission could complete the redelineation of electoral boundaries for the whole country by the next polls in 2018 if there were no legal challenges. He said the redelineation for Sabah would be done after the upcoming Sarawak state election, after which the exercise would be carried out in peninsular Malaysia. He said all states would be assessed, and there was no guarantee that every state would go through the redelineation exercise. The EC's redelineation exercise in Sarawak was criticised by the opposition, civil society groups and Bersih, who said the move was to protect Barisan Nasional votes. A legal challenge to the EC's proposed electoral boundaries in Sarawak was eventually thrown out by the courts, which ruled in favour of the commission.  The EC's proposal to increase the number of state seats in Sarawak from 71 to 82 was subsequently passed by Parliament with a simple majority. "We don't want another case of Sarawak, and the EC cannot say they don't want any more objections against their redelineation plans either, because anyone can object. "Any person in a constituency has the right to file an objection against a redelineation exercise," she said. Election analyst and Bersih member Dr Wong Chin Huat (pic, right) said if the EC did not follow the Federal Constitution and the law when conducting the redelineation exercise, it would likely face more legal challenges. He said past exercises had worsened the country's democracy because election outcomes could already be predetermined due to the redelineation. "People did not stand up before but the days when the EC has a free hand to do what it wants are gone. The people must stop the commission from doing more gerrymandering and mal-apportionment. "We are stressing now that notwithstanding the court's decision, we need the EC to give full information on the redelineation. "The EC does not have to please us. It just has to go by the book," he said. Wong, who is also a fellow at Penang Institute, said the EC was already redrawing polling districts, a precursor to the redelineation process. When reorganising voters into polling districts, people would be shown the electoral roll containing the names of voters but not a map of the constituencies where they would be voting, he said. During the redelineation process, where polling districts would be regrouped into state constituencies and then into parliamentary constituencies, and new state and parliamentary seats' borders would be redrawn – people would be given the map but not the electoral roll, he said. "They do not give both information at the same time. Without having the electoral roll and the map together, people are unable to scrutinise the exercise. "That was the case in Sarawak, and now in Sabah, where they are looking at the polling districts. With this trend, we worry that the same tactics will be applied when the EC does the redelineation in the peninsula," he said. Wong said the people must be vigilant of what was happening and promised that Bersih would assist them and take their cases to court if necessary. He said the polls reform group was providing training and materials to local activists to help them understand the redelineation exercise and how to process the data. "People just need to know how to use Excel and Google Map. We also welcome lawyers who would like to help when there are cases to bring to court," he said. – February 27, 2016.]]>

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