Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2015
• The principle of “one man, one vote” was never entirely adopted in Malaysia and disproportionate weightage to favour rural areas was in-corporated into the electoral system from the beginning. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) has since used the apportionment of seats and the demarcation of constituency boundaries to reinforce its advantage.
• In the recent 13th General Elections, BN's mal-apportionment and ger-rymandering strategies over decades resulted for the first time in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat winning the popular vote yet failing to gain control of parliament.
• Since 1972, electoral delineation rules have allowed for rural weight-age without clear limitations. The erosion of Malay electoral support in the 1999 election further led BN to use constituency re-delineation in 2002 to pre-empt future Malay vote swings against it and to take advantage of the opposition parties’ inability to overcome ethnic vote-pooling.
• However, with the emergence of an opposition multi-ethnic coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) that can also gain from ethnic vote-pooling, mixed constituencies ceased to be BN strongholds. Since 2008, the ethnic voting trend favours PR.
The principle of “one man, one vote” was never entirely adopted in Malaysia and disproportionate “weightage” to favour rural areas was incorporated into the electoral system from the beginning. In a first-past-the-post system, “the manner in which the…total electorate is divided into electoral constituencies is crucially important in determining outcomes” (Lim 2003, p. 26). Excessive use by Barisan Nasional (BN) of the apportionment of seats and the demarcation of constituency boundaries to reinforce its advantage has invariably devalued the “one man, one vote” principle.
In the 13th General Election held on 5th May 2013, the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR)39 won 50.85 per cent of the popular vote but only 89 parliament seats or 40.09 per cent of the total (Table 1). In contrast, though winning only 46.87 per cent of the popular vote, BN won 133 federal seats and retained control over parliament with 59.91 per cent of the seats. PR's loss despite winning the popular vote can arguably be attributed to BN's long-term use of electoral delineation to create unequal-sized constituencies.
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