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Is giving rural voters more weightage than urban voters undemocratic?

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Of late I had at least an interesting debate on our election system at Ktemoc. Ktemoc argued for proportional representation and equal weightage for rural and urban area. He suggested putrajaya to combine with labuan and part of kl. My stand has always been the same which I responded as such:

“You’re again writing an old issue. Weved had this argument plenty of times. First lets establish some principle. Even in UK and the US there’s no equal vote for everyone. Why is this? Its a historical product captured in the constitution. So please read again from the original constitution of malaya, rural area has always been given greater weightage. To top it all, don’t forget state balance of power which also form the crux of the constitution determines the powers between the state. Please remember we are a federation lah.

I repeat there is nothing wrong in giving more weightage to certain constituency. You cannot find anywhere under the law of US ke or UK ke its illegal or even undemocratic.

Secondly, how can you separate a constituency. Putrajaya is a capital and not connected with any kl territory. It is a right by itself to be a constituency. In fact I will argue its ludicrous to have various disjointed constituency. Can you even give an example in foreign jurisdiction in UK or US where there’s such a thing?

Thirdly, lets be blunt. People who want urban similar weightage with rural has never been based on principles. Its based on who they want to win. And this is the problem with this argument.

The issue to this is simple. We cannot have a wide disparity because its unfair. Lets close the gap on the ratio. As in all our past, rural has more weightage. We must recognise this. We should develop on a better ratio rather than denying the rural weightage.

The EC head is correct and constitutional in regards to the weightage. Those who condemn him based on this please go read your constitutional history. A constitution has always been based on traditions everywhere worldwide. You seek to change you prove your case but to call others who defend the constitutional practice as dumb shows how dumb the person is.”

Ktemoc responded that there is an instance where a location is placed 100 km apart but still in one constituency. He mentioned Jervais Bay in Australia. I did a bit of reading and this was what I found and responded:

“I have to disagree….

First I thank you for jervis bay example. It was an interesting anomaly you gave. I’ve checked other electoral divisions of Australia and they are contiguous. This follows a prime criteria in demarcating an electoral division like everyone else in the world ie having a contiguous area. There shouldn’t be another electoral division separating one electoral division.

The question was how did this anomaly happen. Now for those unaware of Jarvis bay history, please note it was ceded by NSW because they believe a capital city (Canberra or ACT) must have a port. Strange but true. So jarvis was carved out. It now has a population of merely 400 people now. I believe its much lesser when it was ceded. Originally jarvis forms under one electoral division with canberra but has since been under Fraser division when the ACT electoral division was split. It is split by 100 km plus by other electoral divisions.

This is a strange historical product. When the first electoral division for ACT was created I believe jervis bay was almost inhabitable. It is illogical then to create another constituency where there is almost no one. They had been administered then by a department.

Now an interesting thing to note is that when ACT was created and parliament was opened in Canberra the population of Canberra was below 20000. There was no fuss by Australians on misapportionment. Everybody understood that when you have a new area carved out you definitely need to have a separate representation.

Thus the jervis Bay Area is not a good example to apply in malaysia but merely an anomaly. In fact the tried and tested principle of a contiguous area is still maintained by electoral commission of Australia. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense to split electoral division with another division. It is also arbitrary unfair and administratively hard to govern.

That’s why when selangor ceded Putrajaya it must necessarily form another constituency. Putrajaya is not connected to any part of Wilayah. Neither can it be under sepang.

Putrajaya population of 16000 may be the lowest now but it will grow fast with all the developments. Many there are still registered elsewhere. Canberra or ACT also started the same and there was no issue at all by the Aussies.

To include Labuan with Putrajaya is itself an arbitrary gerrymandering. Anywhere in the world no electoral commission will combine two far off area into one constituency. Labuan has much more population than Putrajaya and deserves a rep.

So lets get back to the issue. Its one of narrowing the urban rural weightage. An argument that in every democracy one must have an equal vote and weightage is a fallacy. Even liberal democracies do not practice this principle. Why? Because of history, tradition and social condition. The best example is of course US. Wyoming which has a population of 500k has a collegiate votes of 3. While Arizona which has 6.5 million has 10 votes. A voter in Wyoming is worth 4 times than a voter in Arizona? Is US then undemocratic? [note I use 08 figure]

So don’t jump to conclusion. Its a historical product and of social construct. If you want to really go for proportional representation, everything must be relooked. That itself require another posting.”

In summary:
1) many countries do not practice proportional representation ie one vote is valued the same everywhere. This includes UK and US.

2) since merdeka we always have weightage favouring rural area and compounded by entry of Sabah Sarawak.

3) Putrajaya is a new fed capital city and was ceded by selangor. It has to have a new constituency as its not connected with any part of kl. Canberra was like that as well when they started.

4) to include Labuan and Putrajaya together is arbitrary and gerrymandering. They are so far apart. Jervais bay argument which is almost inhabitable cannot apply. You cannot apply extreme anomaly as a principle.

5) we should focus on narrowing the weightage. To change to a new rule on proportional representation must be debated widely. If not careful we will be more parochial with our states mindset and lead to further division.

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2 thoughts on “Is giving rural voters more weightage than urban voters undemocratic?

  1. The slogan “one man – one vote” is never put into practice in the exercise of practical democracy anywhere in the world. Even the so-called leading & most advanced democracy in the USA recognized the black voters only relatively recently. The collegiate system in the US Presidential election and the allocation of equal number of senatorial seats for each US states also emphasize the fact that the slogan is just that, a mere slogan without any democratic significance. Why should we Malaysians be tricked by that slogan???

  2. The rural people may be poor but they are a contented society who would always show their gratitude and support to/for UMNO. Most rural people do not know any other type of government other than UMNO. Many of the rural Malays believe that if you are opposing UMNO, you are opposing the government of the Malays, by the Malays and for the Malays. The rural Malays have grown up with the belief that only UMNO can protect their religion and to them only UMNO could fight the Christians and the Chinese dominance.

    To the rural communities they are ‘Malay first and Malaysian second’. They believe in ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ and ‘Tanda Putera’ and abhor evangelism and proselytisation. In this scenario, the rural citizens if incited will be the first to fight and die ‘Untuk Agama, Bangsa dan Negara’. This has always been the reason and open secret for UMNO electoral success since independence.

    You don’t have to go to the top world universities to learn about political communication, advertising and campaigning because it is clear for all to see that UMNO/BN will rule the country for many many many more years irrespective of whatsoever delineation exercise.

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