Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Open letter to P.Uthayakumar and Koh Swe Yong

By Choo Sing Chye

As the General Elections loom closer, I would by most humble means try to provide some comments on your Human Rights Party’s (HRP) and Parti Rakyat Malaysia’s strategy (PRM) in the coming elections.

Your party 15/38 strategy ‘to create, win in and create politically empowered 15 Parliamentary and 38 State Indian majority seats’ and Koh Swe Yong, secretary-general of PRM (Star – 7/6/2010) to contest as many seats as possible in the coming elections will test or better still crack the iron-clad feudal first-past-the-post electoral system to ‘empower’ the minorities – this had never happened before in history, either in Malaysia or in Great Britain.

One of the main factor that make British politics being lagged behind other European countries is the first-past-the post electoral system.

Many political scientists had described this first-past-the-post electoral system as faulty. This is the reason why? In the 1983 British General Election, the Conservatives won only 40 percent of the votes but obtained 60 percent of the Common’s seats. [1]

As it is, this electoral system is the most undemocratic electoral system ever devised and it is ludicrous that is still in existence today. It had never given the minority a voice like yours a chance to flourish in our political system. It should have disappeared long ago along with the ending of the feudal system in Great Britain.

In any good electoral system, it should encompass the principle of ‘one person, one vote, one value, but unfortunately it is not to be in the case of first-past-the-post system. Sadly we are stuck to this deformed electoral system which we had inherited since Merdeka from the British.

In Great Britain, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as most Malaysian might called ‘the third force,’ had consistently unrepresented, ‘gaining about 30 percent of the votes in some elections but no more than 1 per cent of the seats (in the region of 20 to 30 seats’) [2]

In the 1992 British General Election saw the LDP securing more than 20 percent of the votes and won only a measly 20 seats. Ironically, the Labour Party which secured only 34.4 percent of the votes but won 271 seats in the House of Commons. [3]

If the principle of one person, one vote, one value were to be applied to this election, LDP should get around 130 seats instead of 20 thus losing a whooping 110 seats in this 1992 General Election alone. In turn, the Labour Party should get around 224 seats and not 271.

Apparently it took less than 40,000 votes for one Conservative MP to be voted in, slightly more than 40,000 for a Labour MP but for the Liberal/Alliance (only in 1983) it needed more the 338,000 votes (7 times as many votes) just to get an MP into the House of Commons. [4]

In Pennsylvania, USA, in 1924 the Republican Party won about one million votes and took 36 seats in the state election, while the Democrat Party won over half a million votes and took not even a single seat. [5]

In the case of Malaysia where the first-past-the-post system coupled with the lopsided media, the bias Election Commission had kept Barisan Nasional in power for the last 50 over years.

In our country, as it is known that there is not a single Indian majority seat. Not because it has none. It is because of Barisan Nasional’s gerrymandering.

Here is one example, the Buntong State seat (Perak) has a voters’ population of 21,682 (Malay 6.1 %, Chinese 47 %, Indians 46.2 % ) and compared with Pengkalan Hulu (seat won by Former Menteri Besar, Tajol Rosli) which has only 11,717 voters (Malay 72.6 %, Chinese 12.1 % Indians 9.3 %). In other words, the vote value of Pengkalan Hulu is twice that of Buntong’s.

If the concept of one value is applied, Buntong should be split into two constituencies – one with a Chinese majority and the other with an Indian majority. In the Indian majority seat, there would be at least 50 over percent of Indian voters.

With the Barisan Nasional’s gerrymandering and the unfair first-past-the-post system what chance have we got? Our voices will always remain unheard. In contrast, this unfairness benefits the super rich Malays, Chinese and Indians.

To replace the first-past-the-post system with a Proportional Voting system is near impossible. Although this system sees a fairer distribution of votes and the votes cast reflect closely with the seats won. Nobody in Barisan Nasional wants it for it will spell an end to their monopoly on the political power.

The only way out for any party is to evolve into a coercive group. Moving forward under one collected desire to get rid of injustices and in the process similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s direct democracy, touch the hearts of the long-suffering poor Malays, Chinese, Indians and the East Malaysians with compassion, sincerity, openness and fairness, without planting the seed of hatred along the way.

Only this, can we break the stranglehold of the Barisan Nasional and the corrosive ideals of Tun Dr. Mahathir and his sidekick, Ibrahim Ali.

1) J.Denis Derbyshire, The Business of Government, W & R Chambers Ltd Edinburgh, 1987.
2) ibid.
3) ibid.
4) Peter Harris, Foundation of Political Science, Prentice Hall, Singapore, 1997
5) J.Denis Derbyshire, The Business of Government, W & R Chambers Ltd Edinburgh, 1987.

(Further reading on types of PR: The Alternative Vote, Second Ballot, The Party List System, The Additional-Member System and The Single Transferable Vote)

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