Proposing Boundary Delimitation Changes in Malaysia

Up to Consolidated RepliesACE, March 11. 2015Translate

This question is posted by ACE on behalf of PN member Piang Yow Wong.

Original Question:
This question is about boundary delimitation issues in Malaysia. We seek PN members' advice on how to address the following issue:

  • As a result of large differences in constituency size, the value of votes is not equal across constituencies. For instance, a vote from the smallest constituency, Putrajaya (15,791 electors) is worth nearly 9 times the vote of the largest constituency, Kapar (144,369 electors).
  • We have analysed the maps and discovered that constituency size can be quite easily re-balanced to within +/- 20% of the average.

With this in mind,

  1. What steps can we take to persuade the Election Commission to consider our studies and offer better balanced constituencies?
  2. Should the Election Commission refuse to consider our proposals or consider and reject them, is there any remedial action that we can take?

The following Google document might answer some questions:
Those who wish to access it may require approval from me (google's standard procedure). An email request will be sent to me and I will grant access ASAP.

Thank you for your kind assistance,
PY Wong

Boundary delimitation resulting in disproportionate representation is an issue common in democratic states that, if extensive enough, can cause a breakdown in the democratic legitimacy of the offending state. In Malaysia, the misbalance in constituency representation is protracted to the point that a vote from the smallest constituency, Putrajaya (15,791 electors) is worth nearly 9 times the vote of the largest constituency, Kapar (144,369 electors). Malaysian political scientists have conducted an analysis on the boundary delimitation maps and discovered that constituency areas could potentially be re-drawn into +/- 20% of the average: a marked improvement from before.

Therefore, the question:

What steps can Malaysian citizens and political scientists take to persuade the Election Commission to consider the study and offer more balanced constituencies?

What actions can Malaysians take if their re-drawing proposal is refused?

Summary of Replies

Members of the Practitioners' Network were encouraged to provide guidance on the issue based on their geographic areas of expertise, first on the value of fair boundary delimitation, and subsequently on ways to address grievances to the government of Malaysia.

Boundary Delimitation Suggestions

  • During boundary delimitation, strict attention should be paid to both the geographic variables of land area and the demographic factors of population density and living space, as was done during the delimitation of Côte d'Ivoire.
  • Consider a specialized technical group of experts to work with Parliament to facilitate specialized boundary delimitation. In Mexico, the IME (their EMB) uses a mathematical and computerized system based on a Heuristic Model with 10 criteria: for example, legal factors, social factors, administrative factors, etc.
  • India recently utilized GIS maps to combat disproportionate representation. Prior to delimitation reform, one parliamentary constituency comprised of 350,000 population while another one had 3,400,000. In the recent delimitation exercise all the seven constituency of Delhi were re-drawn to represent equal population with variation of +/- 10%.
  • Focus on delimitation based on set of internationally-accepted standards of political and social factors, as Kenya did during their delimitation reforms prior to the March 2013 general elections.

Suggestions for Successful Lobbying

  • Conduct an argumentative advocacy campaign based on international standards to raise awareness. Participate in the public forum.
  • Check if the Electoral Commission of Malaysia has complied with the relevant stipulations relating to delimitation of constituencies. If the Commission is not in compliance, the issue is whether any interested entity, individual or political party, has the proper locus standi with respect to this issue before the court to compel the Commission to act.
  • Seek an audience with the EMB through memorandums or appointments.

Countries Studied

  • Côte d'ivoire
  • Mexico
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Malaysia

Contributing Members

  • Sinisa Bencun
  • Marguerite Yoli-Bi Kone
  • Deyanira Galindo
  • Carl Dundas
  • Noor Mohammad
  • Piang Yow Wong
  • Jesus Antonio Castellanos Vasquez
  • Immaculate Njenge

External Sources

  • Castellanos, Jesus (2004). The Electoral Administration in Venezuela and new challenges arising from the Constitution of 1999. Specialized Publications CAPEL of
  • Jaramillo, Juan and Tickner, Arlene (1999). Colombia II, The Long Road to the renewal of the policy. Electoral Systems in the Andean countries. (Mechanisms, effects and alterations). Andean Parliament, Bogotá