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Open letter to the EC ― Tessa Houghton

May 27 ― Dear EC Deputy Chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar,

I wish to comment on your recent statements in an interview reported in The Malaysian Insider, dated May 27, 2013 (reproduced below):

According to Wan Ahmad, the electoral system used in Malaysia is also used by developed countries that have been practising democracy for a long time.

“Britain, already a few hundred years practising democracy, until now it uses first past the post... Australia, first past the post. New Zealand first past the post mixed a bit with the proportional representation (PR) system. India, the largest democratic country in the world, 800 million voters, first past the post,” he said.

The EC deputy chairman said it would not be possible for PR to win so many seats, including a few states, if the “first-past-the-post” system was unfair.

New Zealand does not, as you state, utilise FPP “mixed a bit” with PR. It utilises the Mixed Member Proportional system (MMP), which is distinct from simple/’single winner’ FPP. New Zealand used to suffer under the same simple FPP system as Malaysia currently suffers from, which resulted in the right-wing National Party consistently gaining power despite a majority of New Zealanders voting for the left-wing Labour Party, and in a lack of recognition of smaller parties. Wide-scale electoral reform was undertaken in 1992 in response to huge dissatisfaction with the system, through a referendum that allowed NZ citizens to decide on their preferred voting system.

Almost 85 per cent of New Zealanders voted to throw out FPP, with over 70 per cent voting to replace it with MMP. A 2011 referendum held to re-gauge New Zealander’s voting preferences found almost 60 per cent of New Zealanders in favour of retaining MMP, and less than half of the 42 per cent wanting change expressing a desire to return to FPP.

As such, your claim that NZ “uses FPP” and conflation of the two systems is a grave misrepresentation of New Zealanders’ opinions on the system of FPP used in Malaysia. Ordinary NZ citizens understand the myriad voting systems available and have clearly registered their preferences. I take issue with you misrepresenting my country in an attempt to silence both the widespread criticism of both Malaysia’s iteration of the FPP system and the EC’s conduct.

I am proud of my country, even though I do not support our current government ― we regularly top corruption indexes as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, and were recently named world leaders in a human freedom index. No country is perfect, but I am proud of the fact that as a New Zealander, my government a) regularly asks NZ citizens for our opinions on matters of national importance, and b) regularly respects our decisions.

NZ chooses MMP because it prevents smaller parties (such as the New Zealand Maori Party and the environmentalist Green Party) from being crushed by two-party Labour/National dominance. We also recalculate our electoral boundaries every five years, using census results, to ensure that electorates are approximately equal, with a tolerance of voter population inequality of only +/- 5 per cent between electorates, so as to eliminate gerrymandering and malapportionment. Contrast this with the difference tolerated between the electorates of Putrajaya and Kapar ― an inequality in voter numbers of over 900 per cent. NZ also has strictly enforced rules to ensure equality and restraint in campaign advertising funding, fair media access for all parties, and an independent Election Commission overseeing the entire process.

I could go on to criticize your misrepresentation of Australia, which utilizes a preferential voting system with the option to cast votes “above” or “below the line” ― again, something entirely distinct from simple FPP ― but I will leave it to an Australian to defend their system in detail. There are also subtle but important differences in the way the UK and India operationalize their FPP systems, to do with electoral boundary maintenance and inequality prevention. These important differences should not be ignored or glossed over. For a start, it is worth noting that NZ, Australia, the UK and India all allow citizens to vote from age 18 onwards, a full 3 years before Malaysia (which has the highest voting age in the world), and much more in line with the international norm and with other recognitions of “adulthood”.

I hope that you will, in future, refrain from likening the electoral system in Malaysia to that present in NZ. I also hope that you will take note of the many systems in place in NZ (and elsewhere) to ensure fair and free elections, and begin performing your duty as a civil servant to ensure that Malaysian citizens are afforded the same basic democratic rights.

* Dr Tessa Houghton is assistant professor in Media and Communication, and director of the Centre for the Study of Communications and Culture, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

1 comment:


    But although EC Deputy Chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar was off target, he is not that far out.

    The so-called Malayan cum Malaysian parliamentary was installed by the British in 1957 who claim to have the "mother of all parliamentary system" which has as it cornerstone the feature of popular participation through elections of a representative government.

    However, UMNO quickly turned it into a sham democracy by the 1960s.The EC became one of many of its private instruments and was corrupted so that the electoral system was re-engineered to maintain UMNO tenure in power.

    UMNO infected the system with a virus called "deep throat corruption" brought about by amending the Malayan/Malaysian constitution over 600 times to implement a new apartheid system.

    This created the conduit for the UMNO patronage system to gorge on the wealth of the 3 countries in Malaysia.

    This system based which probably is one of the few in the world after S. Africa

    We must all see that UMNO has misused every aspect of the system to reinforce its power to benefit its elitist members and cronies.

    UMNO is one big parasite existing in the anaemic body of Malaysian Politics.


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