The hallmark of a democratic system is the holding of elections at periodic intervals to allow the people to choose their government. A government which must renew its mandate from the people should result in better and more accountable governance in contrast with an authoritarian system where the ruling regime does not have to face elections.
However elections do not necessarily result in better governance in a one party system where only the ruling party has any chance of winning the election. In a functioning democracy the people must have choice. Regimes which cannot bear democratic competition but still have to face the inconvenience of elections will try their best to remove the choice from the people. One of the most favoured methods is to compromise the electoral process.
In Malaysia, the Election Commission is tasked with conducting elections. It is supposed to be an independent and impartial referee under the direct auspices of the Agung but sadly it has not behaved as independently or impartially as it should. In this article I will point out the many ways in which the EC tilts the playing field to BN’s favour to spare BN from intense democratic competition.
Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating geographic boundaries to establish a political advantage for a particular party. This term was coined after Governor Gerry of Massachusetts who signed a bill to redraw district boundaries to favour his party. The shape of the district formed was likened to a salamander.
The EC has relied on gerrymandering on a large scale. To quote from Bersih 2.0 chief Ambiga Sreenevasan:
“We shared our research, presented slides on the delineation process in 2003. There were astoundingly unusual features, with some constituencies crossing boundaries of local authorities and creating funny shapes,” –
One gerrymandering tactic is to create more seats in pro-BN areas. Needless to say, there were no new seats created in Kelantan.