Changing the electoral system to make vote matters

Malaysians cannot continue to demand for clean politicians within a morally compromised system 


THERE have been hundreds of forwarded messages circulated on social media and messaging apps demanding people to register as voters. Malaysia must accept that there is a need to change the electoral system to make every single vote matter. 

Prior to European colonialism, the Edo people in Benin, Africa were the world leaders in producing the finest bronze sculptures. Their secret was to make the finest clay mould before pouring the molten bronze. The Edo people of Africa highlighted those great moulds were necessary to produce great bronze sculptures. 

Malaysians cannot continue to demand for clean politicians within a morally compromised system. 

The first past the post (FPTP) system practiced in Malaysia is the crudest form of democracy. The lawmakers were chosen based on winning a plurality of votes cast in a particular constituency. Hence-forth, any votes for any other parties are discarded. The key to winning is by appealing to the biggest group by side lining the minorities. FPTP rewards “divide and rule” campaign. 

Gerrymandering is the root of the FPTP system. FPTP leads to lower voter turnout as one vote does not make much difference. Collectively, FPTP allows political parties to come into power with a small number of votes. In the 1959 

General Election, Umno-MCA-MIC won 72% of seats with just 52% of votes cast, and only 37% of the total registered voters. 

The FPTP system creates weaknesses within the legislative process. During the 14th General Election, Pakatan Harapan won 93% of state assembly seats with just 67% of votes in Penang State Legislative Assembly (DUN). Barisan 

Nasional won 88% of state assem- bly seats with just 62% of votes from the 2016 Sarawak State Election. A weak Opposition grants unilateral political powers to amend the constitution to a single political party. 

Career politicians argue the need for direct representation to serve the constituency to retain the FPTP electoral system. At the micro-level, career politicians “serve” the constituency by giving out hampers, rice-bags or conducting cooking classes to popularise themselves at the constituency. In actual fact, the real job of DUNs and MPs is to make macro policies. 

Malaysia must adopt Proportional Representation (PR) at state and federal levels to make every vote count. In a PR system, people vote for the party so any party with 0.5% of the national vote receives 0.5% of total MPs. However, East Malaysia must get one third of the total Parliamentary representatives. 

The PR system also prevents elected representatives from jumping into other parties for money after election. The inability for a singular party to garner ultra-majority with a small vote swing or voter base prevents any unilateral amendments of the constitution. 

Malaysians need to focus on demanding a progressive democratic system by making every vote count. Malaysia must prioritise the adoption of the PR electoral system. 

  • Sharan Raj is a human rights activist, environmentalist and infrastructure policy analyst. 
  • The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.