The fiction of one-man one-vote in Malaysia

Talk by DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, to the First DAP Selangor State Political and Elections Symposium held at Setapak DAP Branch premises on Sunday, August 4 at 9 p.m.

Although Malaysia claims to be operating under the democratic system of one-man one-vote, this is more a fiction than a fact.

The present electoral system denies equal political rights to citizens of Malaysia, and is calculated to entrench the power of the UMNO in the country.

From the 1966 revised electoral figures, we notice the extreme case where Bungsar constituency has 69,021 voters, while Syed Jaffar Albar’s Johore Tenggara seat has only 11,735 voters. In other words, one voter in Johore Tenggara exercises the same influence of electing one M.P. as six Bungsar voters. This is not one-man one-vote system, but one-Johore-Tenggara-man six-Bungsar-vote system.

A close study of the electoral divisions in West Malaysia shows that the system has been cleverly devised to perpetuate the rule of the governing party, in this case, the UMNO.

Out of the 104 Parliamentary seats in West Malaysia, 53 of them (i.e. the majority) have less than 27,700 voters. In other words, whoever wins these 53 seats will get the majority of the West Malaysian Parliamentary seats.

But the total electorate of these 53 seats is only 1.2 million voters, out of a total West Malaysian electorate of 3 million voters, or 40 per cent.

But to win these 53 seats, it is not necessary to win 100 per cent of the 1.2 million voters. All that is required is to win a majority in all of the 53 seats – over 600,000 voters, or 20 per cent of total West Malaysian electorate.

What democracy, what one-man one-vote system do we have, when with only 20% electoral support, and the patronage, mass media of communications and disbursement of public funds at its disposal the ruling party can remain in power?

This is one basic reason why in the Alliance, it is the UMNO which calls the tune. They can lose in every constituency where the MCA or the MIC is contesting, and yet form the government on a minority vote.

In fact, I am convinced that in the next general elections, the Alliance will lose the support of the majority of the Malaysian voters. But they will still remain in power because of the undemocratic electoral system.

In 1959, the Alliance secured 51.8 per cent of the total electorate. In 1964, riding high on the wave of Malaysian solidarity in the face of Indonesian aggression, it managed to secure only 58.5 per cent of total electorate. In 1969 general elections, the Alliance must deem itself lucky if it could secure 40 per cent of the electorate.

This manifestly undemocratic electoral system must be scrapped, if one-man one-vote is to have real meaning in Malaysia.

Weightage in favour of rural areas in the electoral system has been justified on the ground that rural areas cover a large expanse of land, cut across by rivers, mountains, swamps, etc., and that it takes more time to travel in a rural constituency than in an urban ward.

But such an argument does not really hold water. MPs represent people, and not rivers, mountains, swamps, trees or land. Similarly, MPs are elected by voters, not by farms, cities or economic interest.

To perpetuate the present system, where one Johore Tenggara man has six Bungsar votes is to debase the vote of the Bungsar electorate.

We therefore call on the government to uphold true democratic principles and practices, and immediately revise present electoral divisions to give substance to one-man one-vote system we are supposed to be operating in Malaysia.

Audited on 2021-04-05