Towards A Fairer Electoral System - 1 Person, 1 Vote, 1 Value

Tindakmalaysia Network Services PLT (Tindak Malaysia)

[ 1272 Votes ]

Malaysia

Organization Type: Civil Society | Category: Internet for Development

Project Summary

The project has brought the following benefits to the community:

* Lowered the barriers to effective objections to the Electoral Delimitation process, whereby a hitherto impossible task has now been made possible.

* Provided free and open access through the Internet to our equalized digital maps and objections menu to assist electors make representations, counter-proposals and objections to the Election Commission’s (EC) recommendations.

* Education programmes through YouTube on the Delimitation process as a voter awareness and empowerment tool.

The item below is an ongoing activity as, other than Sarawak, the EC has not tabled their Delimitation Recommendations for public objections yet.

* To organize 100,000 electors to register as objectors in groups of minimum 100 per Constituency in readiness for the EC’s launch of the Delimitation exercise.

Background

a. Historical Background:

Malaysia has an electorate of thirteen point three million out of a population of thirty million. Four point seven million of these electors who are from the rural areas, can decide who runs the country. This arose from an active discrimination of the urban sector in favour of the more vulnerable, poorer and less-informed rural sector.

With independence from the British in 1957, Malaya’s (prior to the formation of Malaysia) Constitution provided for a fairly independent Election Commission (EC). The EC was mandated to assign seats to each State based on the State electoral population divided by the electoral quota (EQ) for the whole country. The “electoral quota” means the number obtained by dividing the number of electors in the Federation by the total number of constituencies. The number of electors in any constituency should not differ from the EQ by more than fifteen per cent. In other words, each Constituency electorate had to be kept within a +/-15% band from the EQ.

In 1960, the EC did its job so impartially that the Ruling Alliance Government amended the Constitution several times in an attempt to remove the Chairman but they failed. In 1962, the Government amended the Constitution retrospectively to annul the 1960 redelineation and to require the EC to submit each new redelineation to the Prime Minister (PM) for the approval of Parliament, thus giving the PM the right to make modifications. The permissible EQ deviation was widened from 15% to 33% so that urban constituencies could be up to twice the size of rural constituencies. http://bit.ly/F1_20130507_LB

In 1973, the Constitution was amended further to remove this limit altogether. Also the the EC lost its power to determine the number of constituencies for each State as Parliament took on this power. The Ruling Party gave more seats to States in their strongholds and reduced them in opposition strongholds, creating inter-state malapportionment.

In 2001, the Constitution was amended to establish Putrajaya as a Federal Territory (FT). Each FT was recognized as a State with at least one constituency. Tiny Federal Territories could become constituencies. In the last Delimitation exercise in 2003, Putrajaya became a Parliamentary constituency with only eighty five electors!. The largest constituency of Kapar, just sixty kilometres away, had an electorate a thousand times larger.

[Note: The first EC Chairman was able to remain in office until his mandatory retirement in 1967 at the age of 65.]

With the new laws that were in place, subsequent EC appointees were selected from the ranks of retired senior civil servants and members from the ruling party. The EC lost their ability to act independently. Today the EC is seen as just a department in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

F1 Figure 1 - http://bit.ly/F1_Figure_1_TM


Through the years, the electoral rights of Malaysians were gradually whittled down to a stage where today, we are burdened with an extremely-flawed electoral system. The same ruling party had been in power for the past 6 decades, with the constituencies so severely malapportioned that free and fair elections never existed. The Malaysian electoral system has the dubious distinction of being described as:

“ the extent to which the electoral system is distorted; on a number of measures, Malaysia has among the highest levels of malapportionment in the world.“ http://bit.ly/F1_MalaysianElectoralSystem_ANU.

In terms of electoral integrity, Malaysia was ranked 114 out of 127 countries in the world by the Electoral Integrity Project http://bit.ly/F1_MalaysiaElectoralIntegrity_EIP. And was rated worst in the world under the category of District Boundaries.

The EC, contrary to the Constitution, created three categories of seats with vastly different elector population to justify their malapportionment between rural and urban areas.

F1 Figure 2 EC Seat Categories - http://bit.ly/F1_Figure_2_EC

Seats were designed such that one third of the voters elected half the seats to Parliament. With the First Past The Post System (FPTP), a party could win a general election with barely 16.5% of the votes. In the last General Elections (GE13) in May 2013, the incumbent party achieved a simple majority with just 22.22% of the actual turnout. They in fact lost the popular mandate, winning only 47.4% of the votes, and yet managed to secure 60% of the seats. As most of the contests were straight fights, this was a glaring anomaly.


F1 Figure 3: 22.22% Decided The Elections - http://bit.ly/F1_Figure_3_TM


The reasons for this sad state of affairs were that the barriers to objections were so high and time to object so short, that it was practically impossible for an ordinary elector to put up a comprehensive objection to seat malapportionment. In our history, no one ever managed to take the EC to court over this issue.

But the most critical factor was the lack of public trust in the integrity of the EC. Although the King was supposed to appoints members of the EC who enjoys public confidence as mandated in the Constitution, throughout its history, the EC was manned by establishment figures drawn from the ranks of retired senior civil servants. Public disquiet has been borne out by three massive public protests to demand for free and fair elections:

* BERSIH 1: Nov 10, 2007 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Bersih_rally

* BERSIH 2: July 9, 2011 -

**** http://bit.ly/F1_20110709_YOUTUBE
**** http://bit.ly/F1_20110709_TMI ,
**** http://bit.ly/F1_20110709_PICASA

* BERSIH 3: Apr 28, 2012 - http://bit.ly/F1_20120428_TM

The lack of public confidence could be seen below:

* The ex-EC Chairman admits to the EC bias: http://bit.ly/F1_20131125_TMI . He claimed:
“power was a numbers game.”
“as a former EC chairman, he knew how to keep the Malays in power.”
“[in] three re-delineation exercises of electoral borders, which were done during his time with the EC, [he] had ensured Malays remained in power.”

* An academic asked: [Is] EC shooting itself in the foot or revealing its true colour? - http://bit.ly/F1_20150106_FMT



b. Context:

Tindak Malaysia had trained thousands of polling agents in the run-up to GE13 (General Elections May 05, 2013) to ensure that polling was conducted fairly in the polling stations, but we realized that even with the best polling agents in the world, the handicap posed by the seat malapportionment would render their efforts irrelevant. Immediately, after GE13, we directed our resources to restart the Delimitation Project called “1RUN”. 1RUN is Malay for “1 Rakyat, 1 Undi, 1 Nilai”, meaning “One Person, One Vote, One Value”.

Our goals were to:

* Lower the barriers to effective objections by citizens to the Delimitation process,

* Provide online digital equalized maps to help electors put up objections,

* Conduct voter education on the Delimitation process through YouTube,

* Register 100,000 objectors.

From our analysis, the Ruling Party enjoyed an advantage of 8.7% of the votes due to malapportionment and gerrymandering. Our goal was to eliminate such malpractices to level the playing field.


Figure F 1.4: Design for Non-level Playing Field - http://bit.ly/F1_Figure_4_TM


c. Challenges:

* A subservient EC favouring the Ruling Party and operating as a department under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Figure F1.1 - http://bit.ly/F1_Figure_1_TM
* Public apathy and a lack of confidence that the EC will act fairly.

* When we started in July 2011, the EC was constitutionally entitled to commence the Delimitation exercise. We were under great pressure to produce the equalized maps as fast as possible as we were not sure when the EC would table their Delimitation proposals.

* Bureaucratic obstruction: Constituency maps were only available for purchase at the State EC offices but not at the Headquarters in Putrajaya. But the State-wide map showing all the Constituencies was only available at EC HQ in Putrajaya but not at the State EC offices. To buy all the necessary maps, it was necessary to visit both the EC HQ and all 16 State EC offices. Different States had different policies. Some supplied directly upon enquiry. Others required the purchaser to get from the Malaysian Survey and Mapping Department (JUPEM). JUPEM would only release the maps with an authorisation letter from the State EC office. A lot of time was wasted running back and forth.

* High cost of maps and electoral data: The maps cost about USD 6,000 to acquire while the national electoral roll cost about USD 15,000.

* Poor quality of data: The maps were in paper print only. The EC refused to release digital maps. These paper prints had no geographic grid, were prone to distortion from moisture change, thus making it very difficult to match with international geographic grids. A lot of local adjustments were needed. Many of the electors did not have complete addresses making it hard to identify their correct locations. However, we were able to establish that a significant percentage of the electors were not correctly placed. The accuracy of the polling districts, which were the basic building block for redistricting, were in doubt.

* Non-standard scales and format used in maps: In their efforts to fit the Constituency maps into a standard A1 or A0 sheet, the EC varied the map scales to odd values such as 1:29,170 (P10 Kuala Kedah) while a neighbouring Constituency could have a scale of 1:42,310 (P11 Pendang). Before redistricting could start, one had to assemble these Constituencies into a State-wide map. Imagine trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces cut out from different scales. First the pieces had to be standardized to the same scale before assembly. Likewise, we had to do the same for the maps as we were using photoshop for the initial stage. One State, Perak, had individual State Constituencies split into seven parts, making assembly even more difficult.

* Unfair Constitutional Barriers to Delimitation Objections:

**** The time given for objection was only one month from the date of publication of the EC’s Delimitation Proposals in the newspapers.

**** The information presented by the EC in their proposals was very sparse. They only provided a State-wide map showing the outline of the Constituencies. See below.

Figure F1.5 Sarawak EC Delimitation Proposals Mar 30, 2015 - http://bit.ly/F1_Figure_5_EC


There were no polling districts presented. No explanations were offered on how electors were affected. Electors did not have free access to the electoral roll. For Sarawak, this cost USD 1,100. It was unreasonable to expect an elector to spend so much for it.

**** To object in any Constituency, 100 electors from the same constituency have to register as a group, not an easy task for an ordinary elector.

**** Under the Constitution, they could only object for their own Constituency. There was no provision to object to other Constituencies even if they were very unequal.

**** With the limited time given and the lack of information presented, it was impossible for an objector to object holistically on a State-wide basis.

* Lack of funding:

**** Being a new NGO and with remote possibility of success, fund-raising was out of the question. We relied on our volunteers to pay their own way.

* Lack of knowledge:

**** There were no Malaysians outside of the EC with any experience in delimitation on a national scale. Except for resources from the internet and some foreign friends, everything was self-taught. By 2013, we found QGIS, an open-source geographical information system. That enabled us to start digitizing the polling districts to create more accurate maps.


d. Problem The Project Was Set Up To Address:

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR) identified three fundamental rights in their articles - http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html.

* Article 19: Right to freedom of opinion and expression,

* Article 20: Right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,

* Article 21: Right to free and fair elections, with equal suffrage.

Malaysians had never enjoyed these rights as the Malaysian Government refused to accede to the UDHR.

The same Ruling Regime had remained in power through unfair elections. Repression was used a strategy to maintain power. Human rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of information and free and fair elections were suppressed through oppressive laws such as:

* the Sedition Act 1948, strengthened in 2015 (http://bit.ly/F1_Sedition_TG ),

* Official Secrets Act 1972 (http://bit.ly/F1_OSA_AGC ),

* Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (http://bit.ly/F1_PAA_WIKI2 ),

* Printing Press and Publications Act 1984 (http://bit.ly/F1_PPPA1984_ ),

* Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (http://bit.ly/F1_POTA2015_), and

* Biased delimitation provisions (http://bit.ly/F1_13Schedule_).

Justification

Most Malaysians desire to be free, to enjoy fundamental universal human rights, to be treated with dignity and not to suffer from the scourge of corruption. The only peaceful way was through free and fair elections. Otherwise, the people will eventually rise up.

The public desire for free and fair elections was manifested by the creation of a protest group BERSIH (Malay for “clean”). Three massive peaceful protests were launched demanding for Free and Fair Elections in 2007, 2011 and 2012, all to no avail. Tindak Malaysia believed it was more effective to propose Constitutional solutions.

This project nominated to the ISIF Asia award because…

Contributions: In the promotion of human rights, we have:

1. Lowered the barriers to effective objections by citizens to the Delimitation process:

a. Over the past 55 years, no group or individual has ever challenged the EC in court over the Delimitation process, simply because of the lack of information disclosed by the EC to the public and the very short objection period of one month from the date of publication of the EC’s recommendations. Using our research, electors have brought two court cases against the EC:

Ongoing: * Haris Ibrahim vs The EC - http://bit.ly/C1_20150123_RT,

**** Haris's suit struck out. Premature. http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/301452


* See Chee How and Pauls Baya vs Sarawak EC: EC was ordered by the Kuching High Court to redo the Sarawak Redelineation Exercise because of non-compliance with the Constitution - http://bit.ly/C1_20150515_TMI3

**** The Attorney General has filed an appeal against the ruling on May 27, 2015 - http://bit.ly/C1_20150527_TMI4,

**** Civil society sees this as a betrayal of the Constitution - http://bit.ly/C1_20150528_MK1,

**** Stop using A-G’s Chambers to fight your battles, lawyers tell EC - http://bit.ly/C1_20150603_TMI5


b. Created better awareness of the electoral system:

Through voter education conducted by Tindak Malaysia, Malaysians have become familiar with the terms “malapportionment” and “gerrymandering”. More so through our Delimitation forum on Feb 15 & 16, 2014 organized jointly with the Malaysian Bar Council to launch our Stage 1 equalized maps for all the Parliamentary constituencies (PAR). Project operations started from this date as we were ready to challenge the EC on their Delimitation proposals.

* Why it’s in UMNO’s interest to give everyone an equal voice http://bit.ly/C1_20140216_TMI1 ,

**** TM wants fair delimitation exercise http://bit.ly/C1_20140216_TS ,

**** How many Malaysians does it take to change the future of elections? http://bit.ly/C1_20140217_TMI2 .

This included voter education programmes and a video (TM Delimitation Teaser http://bit.ly/C1_20140311_TM1 ), for the public to understand how malapportionment affected their right to free and fair elections. Our website, www.tindakmalaysia.org was regularly updated with redistricted maps to help the public further.


c. Demonstrated how the EC manipulated the seat sizes:

The EC designed the rural votes to be twice the weight of the urban votes. (http://bit.ly/C1_20150429_MK2 - 'Vulnerable' voters will decide half of S'wak seats).

Figure C1.1 [ http://bit.ly/C1_Figure_1_TM2 ] showed that one third of the votes from rural seats could send half the MPs to Parliament. In other words, they decided on the Ruling Party. The rural electors were kept poor, politically ignorant, easily intimidated and susceptible to money politics. A well-endowed political party could easily secure their votes through bribery or threats. With such background knowledge, an objector would be very motivated to challenge the EC aggressively to aim for equal seat status to help the rural electors.



2. We Made Digital Maps Available To The Public:

Although the EC had digital maps of all the constituencies, they refused to release it to the public. The only maps available, which were quite expensive, were black and white paper prints without geographical coordinates and to non-standard scales (eg. 1:29,170 P10 Kuala Kedah).We spent more than a year digitizing nearly 8,000 polling districts for the whole of Malaysia.

This have been completed and we have shared it with the public including Sinar Project, one of the ISIF award winners for 2014. Here Sinar Project explains how they used our data (http://bit.ly/C2_20150513_SP ).


3. Lowered Financial Barrier - Cost of Malaysian Electoral Roll and Maps:

The electoral roll costs about USD 15,000 per digital copy covering 13.3 million electors. We sorted it by polling districts which enabled the redistricting of the constituencies for the whole country. Because of this groundwork, electors can avoid the high cost to participate in the Objection Process. But when the EC launches the Delimitation exercise, a new roll will need to be purchased. That will cost another USD 15,000.

In total, the maps cost USD 6,000. It is now freely available in digital format.


4. Used Geographical Information System for Redistricting:
We trained a few hundred volunteers in the use of QGIS (geographical information system) to digitize the maps. This was progressively uploaded at www.tindakmalaysia.org .

Through the QGIS Redistricting plugin specially developed by our associate, Sean Lin, we were able to redistrict quickly. What used to take eight days to redistrict a large State, could now be done in a day or less. With this, we could test different configurations quickly to minimize deviation from the electoral quota (EQ).

The volunteers will be able to take charge for the next delimitation exercise in 2024.

Team

Overall-in-charge: Wong Piang Yow (Tindak Malaysia founder),
Chief Delimitation Project Coordinator: Dr. Toh Cheng Teik,
Chief IT Coordinator: SV Singam,
Senior Delimitation Coordinator Stage 1: Wong Kuok Yong,
Senior Digital Mapping Trainer: Chu Kar Weng,
IT Programmer: Kenny Khoo,
Administrators: Doreen Toh, Tan Seaw Kim and Amy Lee,
Legal advisors: Liew Siew Yin, Yvette Mah
Objector Registration, Photography: Lyndon D’Olivero, Henry Lim
Redistricting Plugin Programmer: Sean Lin of Clearpixels.co.nz
Redistrictors: Ng CN, John Lim, Singam, Dr Toh, PY, Sean
Communications: T Y Ko, Henry Chan,
Graphics Designers: Dez Loh, Foo YH
Web administrators: Koh ML & Danesh Chacko,
Facebook administrator: Danesh Chacko,
Digital mappers: 30+,
Standby photographers: 150+.

At the State level, we have partner organizations who are responsible for recruiting objectors and submitting objections to the EC. Eg Sarawak ROSE.

Experience of key persons:

Wong Piang Yow:

* Overall-in-charge of the Delimitation Project and direct responsibility for redistricting and organizing objections to the EC’s Delimitation proposals.
* Founded Tindak Malaysia in 2008,
* Bachelors of Engineering Honours (Civil), , University of Malaya,
* Consulting engineer and contractor. Proficient in surveying and mapping.
* 16 years in election campaign, in particular polling agent and training,
* Drafting reform proposals for Malaysia’s electoral system.


Dr. Toh Cheng Teik:

* Chief Delimitation Project Coordinator,
* Overall-in-charge of organizing the georeferencing of the constituency maps.
* Ph D in Geotechnical engineering,
* Manages own geotechnical engineering consultant firm,
* In charge of polling agents for a Parliamentary constituency during general elections in 2013.


SV Singam:

* Chief IT Coordinator:
* Bachelor of Science (Physics) University of Malaya,
* Masters in IT Management,
* Overall-in-charge of all IT-related work and program development,
* Senior Trainer for polling agent,
* Part of Drafting team on reform proposals for Malaysia’s electoral system,
* Develop video training modules for georeferencing and redistricting.

Objectives

a. Main project objectives were:

* To lower the barriers to effective objections by citizens to the Delimitation process,

* To prepare digital maps based on One Person, One Vote, One Value to assist citizens to object to the EC’s maps and to put up counter-proposals.

* To use the Delimitation process as an education tool to raise voter awareness and to empower them to take direct action.

* To register 100,000 objectors nation-wide.


b. Strategy:

Tindak Malaysia had trained thousands of PACABA (polling agent, counting agent and booth agents) in the country for the 2013 General Elections. Our videos on YouTube had a wide following with almost a million views. This was our source for volunteers.

With very limited funds and an uncertain timeline, we set modest targets. We knew our proposals would not be accepted, but it could form the basis for constitutional challenges against the EC later if they proposed unfair maps to Parliament. An EC who acted in a biased manner could also be a campaign issue during elections.

Our ultimate target was voter education and empowerment.

Technical details and contribution to innovation

Step 1: Scan hardcopy EC constituency maps into a picture format (jpg).

Step 2: Overlay onto google street map using QGIS. Trace and convert polling district boundaries to vector coordinates. This is known as digitizing.

Step 3: Redistrict constituencies using an open-source QGIS Redistricting plugin specially developed by our associate, Sean Lin for this project. Our SOP is online, http://bit.ly/DelimitationRedistrictingProcedures.

For the first time in our history, anyone can object within the one month time limit.

Activities

Stage 1 completed in Feb 2014: Equalized maps for Parliamentary constituencies were launched during a forum and uploaded to tindakmalaysia.org.

Project operations started from here.

Stage 2 Digitized equalized maps for all the Parliamentary and State constituencies were completed in September 2014 and available online at tindakmalaysia.org.

Stage 3 to register objectors for the EC’s Delimitation Proposals and for roadshows to conduct voter education on delimitation, is ongoing.

Stage 4 Constitutional challenges against the EC can commence after the final report by the EC on the Delimitation exercise.

Outcomes

The most relevant outcomes were:

* Lowered the barriers to Democratic Engagement in the Delimitation process:

**** Jan 23, 2015: Haris Ibrahim took the EC to court to demand greater transparency in the Delimitation process - http://bit.ly/C1_20150123_RT,

**** SarawakRose, our Sarawak NGO partner, assisted two groups of electors to object to the EC’s delimitation recommendations for Sarawak of Jan 5, 2015 and Mar 30, 2015. This has laid the groundwork for future Constitutional challenges against the EC.
**** May 15, 2015: See Chee How, obtained a High Court ruling ordering the EC to redo the Delimitation exercise. http://bit.ly/C1_20150515_TMI3

**** May 1, 2015: Greater public participation in the Delimitation process in Sarawak: http://bit.ly/F7_20150501_BP

**** Equalized maps: Creating equalized maps, putting it online at www.tindakmalaysia.org and making it publicly available as an educational tool. A Malaysian elector anywhere in the world, can now object.

* EC under pressure to perform: As the public become more aware and educated, they are ready to challenge the EC in court, thereby forcing the EC to act more competently and transparently, in accordance with their mission.

Publications and dissemination efforts

Our dissemination efforts were:

* Tindak Malaysia’s repository on Delimitation: http://bit.ly/F8_DelimitationForum_TM

* Nov 7, 2014: Press Conference by Tindak Malaysia - http://bit.ly/F8_20141107_RT

* Nov 11, 2014: 4-Part Interview of Wong Piang Yow (PY) on Delimitation by Rakyattimes -

**** Part 1 - https://youtu.be/54CoSUUqMnk
**** Part 2 - https://youtu.be/egLYQNyh_qs
**** Part 3 - https://youtu.be/4yLRq-MY2cA
**** Part 4 - https://youtu.be/nZYbEjXSXFs

* April 18, 2015: Public Forum on Democratic Engagement of Citizens in the Coming Election Process. Part of a series of nationwide roadshow -

**** http://bit.ly/F8_2015418_TM

* April 29, 2015: Objector Registration - http://bit.ly/F8_ObjectorRegistration_TM

* Facebook tindakmalaysia.com: http://bit.ly/E1_Facebook_TM

* Tindak Malaysia on google+: http://bit.ly/E1_TMGoogle_TM

Awards and distinctions

No. We have not applied before.

Website

http://www.tindakmalaysia.org/

YouTube movie about the project

http://bit.ly/C1_20140311_TM1

profile or page from the organization or project leader

http://bit.ly/E1_Facebook_TM

profile from the organization or project leader

N/A

profile from the organization or project leader

http://bit.ly/E1_TMGooglePlus_TM

Project Representative

Wong Piang Yow

Project Representative on

https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=422467160&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

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