Malaysian opposition accuses government of gerrymandering
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Malaysian opposition accuses government of gerrymandering

OPPOSITION figures in Malaysia have cried foul over alleged gerrymandering by the government, accusing the Election Commission of shifting goal posts in its recent redelineation exercise to guarantee Prime Minister Najib Razak victory in the next polls.

Although the next election is not due until 2018, speculation among pundits is rife that Najib, who is embroiled in a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal, plans to take advantage of the weakened opposition bloc to secure victory for his Barisan National (BN) coalition by calling for snap polls.

According to the AFP, the Election Commission, which comprises government appointees, has said it intends to reorganise boundaries in 112 parliamentary seats. The seats tipped to be rearranged make up more than half the national total of 222 seats. The EC is also looking to reorganise more than two thirds of the 576 state seats.

People’s Justice Party vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, who is also the daughter of imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, on Thursday claimed the government was rigging the election with the EC’s large-scale redelineation exercise.

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She said this was happening amid the expose of the “largest corruption scandal ever in the history of the nation’s kleptocracy”, pointing to claims that an alleged RM15 billion (US$3.45 billion) has been siphoned from the nation’s coffers. Najib has firmly denied these claims and Malaysia’s Attorney General had last year cleared the prime minister and his government of any wrongdoing.

However, Nurul Izzah said last week’s EC proposal for redelineation of federal parliamentary seat boundaries set the country up for “an incalculably greater theft”.

“(It’s) the larceny of our entire nation and its government by a corrupt minority seeking to guarantee itself a parliamentary super majority before even a single vote is cast,” she said in a media statement.

“BN seeks to win a football match by tilting the field, widening their opponents goal, and breaking the legs of the other team before the game even starts. But this is no game. The issue at hand is the very lives of the people of Malaysia, and the future of our children and our grandchildren in the decades to come.”

SEE ALSO: Malaysia: Anti-Najib rally ‘Bersih 5’ set for Nov 19

Opposition lawmaker Tony Pua from the Democratic Action Party, was quoted by the AFP as echoing Nurul Izzah, saying that the new boundaries are designed to ensure a win for Najib.

“With Najib Razak’s popularity at the lowest in the history of prime ministers, and a 1MDB scandal that just refuses to go away, Najib has to find the formula to win the elections,” Pua said.

Pua said the redelineation would break up opposition supporters into smaller, multiple constituencies with some of them having more than 100,000 voters.

In the last election in 2013, the 13-party BN won 133 seats out of the 222 constituencies while the opposition took 89. The remaining nine went to independent candidates. However, the majority of the seats taken by BN were from less-populated rural constituencies, allowing it to take federal government even though it lost the popular vote due to the first-past-the-post electoral system.

Mohamad Hashim Abdullah, the EC’s chairman has dismissed the allegations, saying the proposals were not final. He urged critics to file their objections to the commission’s redelineation proposal before the Oct 14 deadline.