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Electoral reforms

Posted: 16 Jul 2013 02:01 PM PDT

There could be massive changes in 15 years. Economic development might have brought drastic demographic changes to some constituencies and if no re-demarcation is made, it would further deteriorate the differences of voter sizes. For example, there are about 150,000 voters in Kapar but only 15,000 in Putrajaya. It is not only unfair, but has also violated the principle of one person one vote.

Lim Mun Fah, MM

Electoral reform comes with the principles of fairness and reasonableness.

Electoral reform will inevitably involve the questions of how the constituencies should be re-demarcated, and how the election system should be improved. The two aspects are closely related to the two major principles of fairness and reasonableness.

The reform involves amendments to the Federal Constitution and it must obtain the support of at least two-thirds of Members of Parliament before being implemented.

Currently, there are 222 members in the Parliament with 133 from the BN and 89 from Pakatan Rakyat. Although the BN has more than half members in the Parliament, it still needs 15 more MPs to reach the two-thirds majority threshold.

Due to political reality, the ruling and alternative parties would have to compromise and reach a consensus on electoral reform to pass the motion. Otherwise, any electoral reforms involving amendments to the Federal Constitution would be rejected unless if the party tabling the motion is able to secure enough support from MPs of the opposite camp.

According to the regulation, constituencies can be re-demarcated every eight years and we should have re-demarcated the constituencies in March 2011. However, the problem turned complicated as the BN did not have two-third majority seats in the Parliament, while four states were ruled by Pakatan Rakyat. Moreover, since the 13th general election might be held at any time, the Election Commission (EC) thus shelved the work.

However, the 13th general election has again produced a government with simple majority seats, and three states are ruled by Pakatan Rakyat. Therefore, if both the ruling and alternative coalitions refuse to compromise, the constituency re-demarcation motion would not be passed in the Parliament and thus, we might still have to use the existing constituencies in the next general election.

The current constituencies were demarcated in 2003 and they had gone through the 2004, 2008 and 2013 general elections. If the next general election falls in 2018, they will then have 15 years of history and been used for four terms.

There could be massive changes in 15 years. Economic development might have brought drastic demographic changes to some constituencies and if no re-demarcation is made, it would further deteriorate the differences of voter sizes. For example, there are about 150,000 voters in Kapar but only 15,000 in Putrajaya. It is not only unfair, but has also violated the principle of one person one vote.

The BN is able to stay in power even though it has gained less popular votes than Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election as our country adopts the simple majority election system, as well as because of an unfair demarcation of constituencies. Therefore, the urgent need is to restore a reasonable limit of voter number differences among different constituencies.

Non-governmental organisation Tindak Malaysia suggested that the number of parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak should be increased while the number of Parliamentary seats in the Peninsula should be reduced to maintain balance. However, is the principle of one person one vote more important? Or maintaining the balance of geographical politics? Obviously, it is a very controversial issue and if the ruling and alternative coalitions fail to reach a consensus here, the suggestion will never be passed in the Parliament.

There is a serious discrepancy between the EC and Bersih on the electoral roll to be used in re-demarcation. And it is much complicated for the question of whether to continue with the existing simple majority election system or change to proportional representation or mixed system. Discrepancies and disputes seem inevitable.

If all parties insist on their respective principles and refuse to give way, would election reform eventually remain empty talk? 


Post-Election Payback Time in Malaysia

Posted: 16 Jul 2013 09:47 AM PDT

Mahathir: Back in the saddle? 

"But Mahathir and Daim are agitating for changing all of the posts. Daim is talking to people to challenge the prime minister. A lot of this is happening because (Najib) is sitting on his ass and doing nothing. It is going downhill." 

John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel 

Mahathir backs moves to punish minorities and reward pro-government voters, companies

Last week, the Malaysian government announced its allocation of public university seats for the upcoming academic year. Only 19 percent of Chinese students got places, along with 4 percent of Indians despite the fact that the two together make up about 30 percent of the student population. Last year, Chinese students got 23 percent, in line with their proportion of the overall population.

That was the first tangible fallout from the 13th general election held on May 5, in which the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition, won 133 of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, or Parliament, preserving its majority despite the fact that it only received 47.38 percent of the popular vote against 50.87 for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition headed by Anwar Ibrahim.

The second came yesterday with the revelation of the award of a RM1 billion (US$314 million) commuter railway project in the massive government-backed Iskandar development in the southern state of Johor to Malaysian Steel Works Sdn Bhd through direct negotiations rather than open tender, in contravention of competitive bid regulations supposedly implemented by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as a part of his three year old Economic Transformation Program to loosen the state's reins on the economy. 

Masteel, as the company is known, is 40 percent owned through its investment in KUB Bhd by the United Malays National Organization, the dominant political party in Malaysia and one known for its cornucopia of rent-seeking businesses that steer money to the party. In addition, Masteel gets a RMB700 million government soft loan to develop the project. According to an official with the company quoted in local media, Masteel will receive a 37-year build-own-transfer arrangement on the project despite the fact that it is slated to break even in 12 years.

The common denominator appears to be the return of Mahathir Mohamad, the 88-year-old former prime minister, and his close friend and ally, former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, at the top of the power structure in UMNO, politically emasculating the current Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak. Despite the loss of the popular vote, the majority of the rank and file inside UMNO believe it was Mahathir's strident racial politics that preserved the Barisan's - and particularly UMNO's - place at the top of Malaysian politics, and that it was Najib's attempt to reach out to the other races that cost them.

Ethnic Malays make up 60.3 percent of Malaysia's population, Chinese 22.9 percent and Indians 7.1 percent, according to the latest census. Malays and Indians dramatically abandoned the Barisan Nasional in the May election, with the Malaysian Chinese Association hit so hard that the party, once the second-biggest in the coalition, refused all cabinet positions. The Malaysian Indian Congress fared somewhat better, but not much.

"Najib was a good prime minister. But instead of strengthening his hand the Chinese and non-Malays and non-Muslims weakened him. But UMNO is strong. So Najib is out of steam," said a lawyer with close contacts to the Mahathir wing of the party. "Najib has lost energy, lost his mandate, lost respect. Mahathir, Tun Daim and the UMNO grassroots are in charge,"

The practical effect is likely to be felt sometime around the UMNO annual general meeting, he and other sources say. The party appears to be following the dictates of Malay nationalists such as the firebrand Ibrahim Ali, the head of the NGO Perkasa, and will seek to cut further into Chinese opportunities in commerce, education and other fields. In particular, several sources said, Najib's attempts to broaden the investment horizon in Malaysia through cutting back on ethnic Malay ownership privileges are dead, along with his 1Malaysia attempts to reach out to other races.

Najib himself has gone silent, leaving his faction in the party distressed and at sea, believing he was so discouraged with the election results that he has basically given up. After the election, he left for an extended government trip to Tanzania and London, followed by a holiday on the French Rivera, then returned to Malaysia after two weeks to continue to remain mute. That spurred a news analysis in the increasingly influential Malaysian Insider news site asking: "There will come a time when Malaysians will ask this question: for how long more is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak going to stay silent during roiling debates on the most important issues facing the country? And then there will come a time when Malaysians will just stop expecting any intervention from the man who occupies Putrajaya; when the mandate he won on May 5 will not matter…:"



The pivotal case of ‘PR vs. EC’

Posted: 16 Jul 2013 08:46 AM PDT


If the EC had failed to properly uphold the laws regulating their role and function, then any decision made by the EC was ultra vires. Judges would be entitled to reach this conclusion, should the facts and the law bare this out.

Ratna Rueban Balasubramaniam, MM 

Not every legal suit is the same. Some cases are pivotal because throw into sharp relief the fundamental principles and values that inform claims of legal and political legitimacy within a legal-political order. Such cases are an opportunity to articulate and clarify the principles that govern legitimate political rule.

PR's suit against the EC is precisely such a case. PR claims that the EC did not uphold its constitutional mandate to be impartial and independent and free of the influence of political parties.

And it claims that various irregularities with the voting procedures, especially the failure to use indelible ink, have compromised the electoral result. PR is asking the courts to issue among other things, a declaration requiring the dismissal of the EC and its immediate reconstitution. And it is seeking an order requiring that there be fresh elections.

The case is a pivotal case because it is an occasion for the courts to clarify that the Malaysian Constitution lays down a legal basis to a "constitutional democracy."

In a constitutional democracy, there are legal norms put in place to ensure that each citizen has an equal right to political participation, that is, the right to participate in any political decision affecting their fundamental interests.

In a constitutional democracy, the ideals of the rule of law or legality and the ideal of democracy are mutually constitutive ideals: the former aspires to tame arbitrary power while the latter aspires to make such power systematically responsive to the interests of citizens.

Both ideals emphasize the citizen's perspective as the primary perspective to assess all questions of political legitimacy. In Malaysia, these ideals are yoked together within the fabric of our Constitution.

Elections give special expression to the citizen's right to political participation by enabling citizens to select which political paradigm should control political decision-making affecting their interests. However, elections are not merely about outcomes or results.

Electoral procedures also require that there is a political environment within which there is fair competition between competing paradigms so that citizens can properly assess and select which among these paradigms will serve the common good. And it requires that there is an adequate electoral procedure by which citizens can exercise meaningful political choice.

Political science establishes that Malaysian politics is "semi-democratic," which implies that the political environment does not allow for a fair competition between political paradigms; political science also shows how the electoral procedure is skewed. This isn't new news.

But what is significant is that despite limits to free political competition and deficits afflicting the electoral process, there has been sufficient competition over the last few years in the elections so that they carry real stakes. Hence, GE 12 revealed that the ruling UMNO/BN could suffer significant losses at the polls, giving rise to a "political tsunami."

It is precisely the fact that there are real stakes that has made GE 13 so important. Prior to the recent elections, there was a palpable sense that there could be political change and a complete shift in political power away from UMNO/BN. But due to the various pathologies afflicting the electoral process this time round, this did not come to pass. So people feel cheated.

But it is important to be precise about why they feel cheated. At one level, this feeling expresses frustration about the accuracy about the electoral result. At another level, the feeling expresses frustrations about the lack of integrity of the voting procedure such that citizens could not meaningfully select a representative government, quite apart from the result.

These frustrations underpin the legal arguments now at issue in the lawsuit filed by PR. The lawsuit challenges the electoral result and implies that voters could not exercise meaningful democratic choice. Of course, both concerns are related.

Read more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/the-pivotal-case-of-pr-vs.-ec-ratna-rueban-balasubramaniam 

Qing Ming and Islamophobia

Posted: 15 Jul 2013 07:16 PM PDT

Why has the Chinese community reacted so intensely? Do they know what they are actually opposing in the first place? From what I have learned, this TITAS course has been designed to familiarise the students with Islamic and Asian civilisations, the latter including Malay, Hindu and Chinese civilisations, not just Islam.

Tay Tian Yan, Sinchew Daily

'What is Qing Ming?"

"Qing Ming was the Chinese emperor who built the Great Wall of China."

An English daily recently conducted a test on the common knowledge of Malaysian MPs.

And when the question, which appears to be way too easy for a wrong answer, was directed to Bung Mokhtar (you're right, the one who keeps making headlines), he made himself a joker again, this time by mistaking the Chinese tomb-sweeping festival to be the emperor who built the Great Wall (Shi Huangdi).

Bung Mokhtar was not hailing from the Philippines, nor Papua New Guinea. He is a bona fide Malaysia-born MP, an elected representative in a multicultural country supposedly having some fundamental knowledge of the history and cultures of various ethnic communities in the country.

Perhaps he could make a better MP had he learned a little of Chinese culture and history.

THE "Sex Duo" is out in the game again. This time, they are not showcasing their naked bodies, but some idiotic religious fuss.

The couple ignorantly tried to wish Muslims a happy Aidilfitri with, you bet, the haram bakuteh during the holy fasting month.

To Muslims, Ramadan is the holy month of fasting when every aspect of day-to-day living, from spiritual life to dietary habits, is put under very strict constraint by religious edicts.

The couple's behaviour was despicably mean and could potentially spark dangerous consequences. If the Muslims are enraged and retaliate, the ones to suffer are not going to be confined to just these two ignorant individuals, but the entire society.

The couple were hauled for interrogation, and punitive actions could be coming along. However, I feel a more important issue here is education.

These two young people should be sent back to school to learn some moral lessons as well as basic knowledge of Islam.

THESE two instances remind me of the repercussions arising from the "Islamic and Asian civilisation studies."

The education ministry has ruled that all private institutions of higher learning must provide these two subjects, already implemented in government universities, and the ruling has triggered some fierce backlash from the Chinese community and religious bodies, calling it an attempt to preach Islam and contravene the freedom of Malaysians to embrace their own religions.

More and more people have voiced up in recent days, which I think is incredible.

Why has the Chinese community reacted so intensely? Do they know what they are actually opposing in the first place?

From what I have learned, this TITAS course has been designed to familiarise the students with Islamic and Asian civilisations, the latter including Malay, Hindu and Chinese civilisations, not just Islam.

Civilisation is a product of the evolution of culture and history over time. In other words, what is being taught is culture and history, not dakwah.

Do the opponents protest merely because of the word "Islam" they see and nothing beyond? Has their sensitivity towards Islam anything to do with their fear of the religion, or Islamophobia?

We cannot afford to talk about multicultural whole day yet feel repulsive towards other people's religions and cultures.

Malay leaders like Bung Mokhtar should indeed have some idea about Qing Ming while the Chinese "Sex Duo" must also strive to acquire some sensitivity towards Islamic teachings.

If Melissa and her FB friends who created some trouble recently had taken the TITAS course and appreciated the special significance of the Malay rulers, they wouldn't have done something so offensive and disrespectful.


An administration riddled with failings

Posted: 15 Jul 2013 02:56 PM PDT

Morsi bungled badly: Egypt's economy stagnated, the trading volume of its stock market fell in the first five months of 2013. Its budget deficit currently stands at about US$29.2bil while unemployment is at 12.5%.

Karim Raslan, The Star

OVERTHROWING a legitimately elected government is a coup d'etat – however you cut it. Being a democrat means taking the rough with the smooth.

The ouster of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi and the ongoing crackdown on the Muslim Brother-hood will only lead to greater tragedies.

Certainly, the secular liberals cheering on the sidelines will regret their initial glee at Morsi's reversal as truth, public trust and law and order become the biggest casualties of the sequence of events unfolding in Cairo.

Those who feel that "political Islam" should be halted by whatever means, legal or illegal, are wrong.

Once you subscribe to the ballot box you cannot turn back.

Political expedience brings short-term and unsustainable "solutions" that will in turn lead to greater injustices.

Indeed the Algerian experience back in 1990 when the army denied a clear electoral mandate, imprisoning and slaughtering thousands is a stark warning of what could lie in store for Egypt.

At the same, many Islamist parties across the globe – the spiritual heirs to Egypt's Ikhwanul Muslimin – will feel that democracy, (one-man, one-vote) is not meant for them even though they often have the raw "numbers" to win elections.

Instead they will become increasingly convinced that a shadowy network of Americans, Europeans, liberals, financiers and "global Jewish forces" will intervene to seize power.

In short, whatever they do, they'll always be victims of a determined conspiracy to deny them their legitimate place in the world.

This will mean, in turn that they don't need to address their own failings in terms of corruption, poor administration and hard-headed ex-clusiveness.

Morsi's administration was riddled with failings.

Many had great hopes for him when he took office back in June, 2012.

It seemed as if he would be able to project a moderate face after decades of former President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian rule.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Morsi bungled and badly: Egypt's economy stagnated, the trading volume of its stock market fell 31.2% in the first five months of 2013.

Its budget deficit currently stands at about US$29.2bil (RM91.8bil), while official figures rather conservatively put unemployment at 12.5%.

At the same time, Morsi alienated both secular and liberal communities.

Moderates and Coptic Christians were upset enough to boycott the drafting of the December 2012 Constitution – which was criticised for lacking sufficient safeguards for freedom of religion and the rights of women – due to the administration's perceived lack of consultation.

Indeed, political Islam is facing setbacks even in South-East Asia.

In Indonesia, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has suffered a series of crises as multiple scandals destroy its once pristine anti-corruption reputation.

Closer to home, PAS finds itself in the need of extensive soul-searching after its less than stellar performance in the 2013 general election – when it lost control of Kedah.

The coup in Egypt (let's call a spade a spade, ya) will only reinforce the suspicion among these parties that they should be wary of democracy.

This is a neat but flawed conclusion because most if not all of their failures have nothing to do with democracy.

Instead their failures are linked to poor administration, corruption and a refusal to acknowledge the need for balance and inclusiveness.

Sadly with Morsi's ouster as a backdrop, conspiracy theories will only proliferate.

Consultation and consensus, in particular, are critical aspects of good governance.

Riding roughshod over the rights of minorities, whether racial, religious or ideological, is a recipe for trouble.

Another great icon of political Islam – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who himself is facing protests at home) allegedly once dismissed democracy as merely a bus which you get out from once you reach your destination.

Well, the bus PM Erdogan's referring to, looks set to crash injuring everyone in it, from the liberals, to the military to the Islamists as accusations and counter-accusations fill the air.


Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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