Home TA Online Anwar, the clock is ticking! Where are the reforms?

Anwar, the clock is ticking! Where are the reforms?

One key issue is the lopsided weighting of parliamentary constituencies

Bersih held its first meeting with a serving prime minister when the team met Anwar Ibrahim on 28 February 2024 - ANWAR IBRAHIM/FACEBOOK

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By Sarujun Hoda Abdul Hassan

The recently elected chairman of Bersih, Faisal Aziz, and his steering committee members, must be congratulated for bringing the coalition back on track to its core business.

The key objective of the electoral reform group is to correct the lopsided and overly manipulated electoral process, which appears to blatantly favour one ethnicity and the government in power.

Every time constituency boundaries are redrawn, many opposition constituencies appear to be overly conflated with boundaries drawn along ethnic lines. Meanwhile, government-held constituencies favouring a certain ethnicity seem to be kept small for easy wins.

The malapportionment of votes is often staggering.

The Election Commission rarely entertained objections from affected voters – another major flaw in its approach.

Look at the shape of the Klang constituency, for instance. It looks like a thin elongated grasshopper-like insect. One cannot help but wonder if this was done maliciously.

Green grasshopper? – SELANGOR.GOV.MY

The Election Commission had no shame nor qualms in undertaking such an absurd exercise – to please its political masters? 

Take a look at selected parliamentary constituencies in Selangor. In Klang (208,913 voters in 2022), Bangi (303,430), Kota Raja (244,712) and Subang (230,940), the number of voters is several times more than a string of previously Umno-held constituencies in the state. Look at the much smaller number of voters in Kuala Selangor (102,951), Tanjong Karang (62,194), Sungai Besar (64,382) and Sabak Bernam (51,609).

The value of one vote in some of these smaller constituencies is equivalent to four to eight votes in the larger seats.

Still, the lopsided weighting didn’t work for Barisan Nasional the last time around. Voters, shocked by Najib Razak’s corruption and his 1MDB grand thefts, shifted their support in a big way to the other ethnic and religious party, Pas, which is part of Perikatan Nasional. PN found these seats delivered to them on a silver platter and quickly gobbled up most of them.

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If the “Madani” (civil and compassionate) government does not correct this lopsided weighting before the next general election, it is a foregone conclusion that PN will reap the advantage and possibly form the next federal government.

It all hinges on whether the electoral boundaries will be redrawn to redress the acute gerrymandering and malapportionment, to remove phantom voters and to eliminate any postal votes fraud. 

Still, this was the first time a prime minister agreed to meet with the Bersih steering committee and listen to their desired reforms.

The Bersih team highlighted the need for clean, free and fair elections and the institutional reforms to strengthen democracy and good governance.

Bersih reminded the PM about the public disgust over several cases where prominent politicians from a party within the “unity government” were given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal. Imagine, these elite politicians had been charged with corruption – the very plague the PM wants to eradicate as his priority.

Bersih is also pushing for an immediate moratorium on similar conditional acquittals in existing corruption cases.

Many among the public were also appalled at the fast-tracking of the Pardons Boards hearing for the unrepented and unremorseful Najib. Even more unacceptable was the 76% reduction in his fine and the 50% reduction in the duration of his prison sentence.

Few are convinced Anwar was helpless, if not instrumental, in this atrocious lapse of judgement. All this happened while many ordinary people suffer heavier sentences for far lesser crimes and while far more deserving cases never reach the board or take much longer.

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Bersih also renewed calls for the full repeal of the Sedition Act. The electoral reforms group wants reforms to the process of appointments of election commissioners.

Among its demands is the call for the declassification and release of the recommendations in the report on institutional reforms.

Another reform demand is a more effective Election Offences Act and a political funding act.

Bersih insists on the separation of the powers and functions of attorney general and public prosecutor.

Included in the Bersih agenda is the call for a parliamentary services bill and reforms to the rules of parliamentary conduct. The group also wants a fixed parliamentary term law and a two-term limit to the PM’s tenure.

It’s about time the government fulfils 100% its manifesto promises and provides full autonomy to Parliament.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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