THE third function of the Election Commission (EC), as enshrined in Article 113 (2) (i) of the Federal Constitution, is redelineation, or the review or delimitation of constituencies. Each electoral constituency will have a certain number of voters residing in defined boundaries.
EC undertakes the redelineation process not fewer than eight years after the completion of the previous review. The redelineation must be completed within two years from the date of its commencement.
Normally, the redelineation of parliamentary and state constituencies is done simultaneously for all states.
This is required by the constitution, in tandem with the emergence of new residential areas due to the growing population.
Constituency redelineation is the drawing of boundaries to prevent the imbalance of voting population in polling districts.
Most countries draw their electoral districts according to traditional boundaries or physical characteristics of the region based on political, social and cultural contexts.
EC must ensure transparency as well as inclusiveness in the process, which commences with the submission of the notice of recommendations to the Dewan Rakyat speaker and the prime minister.
At the same time, the notice is published in major newspapers, gazetted and displayed in all constituencies for public scrutiny and feedback for one month.
This is to allow as many people as possible to participate in the redelineation process, thus ensuring transparency.
According to the law, EC shall take into consideration any representation from state governments or local authorities whose areas are wholly or partly in the constituencies affected by the recommendations.
A local inquiry will be held by EC in respect of those constituencies.
Here again, it will allow recommendations to be submitted by the public.
After the local inquiry, any revised recommendations will again be displayed for public scrutiny for another month, provided that it shall not be necessary to hold more than two local inquiries in respect of any such recommendation.
The final recommendation is then submitted to the prime minister to be tabled in Dewan Rakyat for approval.
The proposals can be approved by Dewan Rakyat with a simple majority, but if the redelineation involves seat increases, then the Dewan Rakyat needs to amend Article 46 of the Federal Constitution with a two-thirds majority.
Internationally, a number of organisations, like the European Commission for Democracy and the Commonwealth Secretariat, list impartiality, equality, non-discriminatory and transparency and balanced distribution of seats among constituents, as good electoral practices for delineation.
The Commonwealth Secretariat, in the publication of the Good Commonwealth Electoral Practices, stated that for redelineation to function, it has to be performed by an independent boundary commission and is normally carried out after a population census.
The Venice Commission, for example, had proposed guidelines for clear and balanced distribution of seats of constituencies on the basis of population, number of resident-nationals, number of registered voters and number of people actually voting.
Dr Lisa Handley, whose study was sponsored by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, recommends several measures to be considered when conducting redelineation, such as population density, ease of public transportation, patterns of human settlements and financial viability and administrative capacity of an electoral area.
(Handley is an academician who has provided electoral assistance to more than a dozen countries and served as a consultant on issues related to democratic governance, including voting rights, electoral system design and electoral boundary delimitation.)
According to non-governmental organisations, the proposal of another commission, for example, the Boundary Commission, like the one in Great Britain, should be considered as it would lessen the burden of EC, as it is tasked with two other functions: the conduct of elections for Dewan Rakyat and the state legislative assemblies, and the preparation and revision of electoral rolls for such elections.
Mohamed Mokhtar Ahmad Bajunid