SELANGOR’S case against the Election Commission on new electoral district boundaries is a bellwether for when 14th general election (GE14) will be called.
There are two scenarios, and both depend on what the Selangor government decides.
On Monday, the Appeals Court had ruled that the EC can proceed with the final stages of the initiative to redraw the boundaries of electoral constituencies which had been started in 2016.
Pakatan Harapan leaders accuse the ruling Barisan Nasional of abusing the EC’s work to redraw the electoral boundaries – also called delimitation or redelineation.
They claim that the delimitation proposals are unfair and that it will create more ethnically polarised, Malay-majority parliamentary seats.
PH lawmaker Dr Ong Kian Ming claims that the EC’s proposed delimitation is aimed at giving BN an edge in its quest to retake Selangor in GE14.
PH is attempting to temporarily halt the process by filing a suit against the EC via the Selangor government, which is ruled by PH parties.
Monday’s ruling was a defeat for PH. If Selangor does not appeal against the ruling at the Federal Court, the EC can now submit its report on the new boundaries to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib will then table it in the current Dewan Rakyat session, which ends on November 30.
Only a simple majority of 111 MPs is needed to approve the new boundaries, said political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat. BN has 132 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat.
According to the 13th schedule of the Federal Constitution, once it is passed in the Dewan Rakyat, the Yang Di Pertuan Agong must sign off on the new boundaries – a process which normally takes up to a week.
If that happens, the new electoral boundaries will be used in GE14. In this scenario, BN would call for the general election at any time after the start of December.
In scenario No. 2, the Selangor government decides to take the case to the Federal court.
It is learnt that Selangor government officials are still discussing whether to proceed with this route.
Once Selangor files a suit at the Federal Court it could again, temporarily halt the EC’s work and the commission would have to wait for the court’s judgment before proceeding.
Federal Court cases of this nature usually take at least three to four months to clear said a constitutional lawyer familiar with the process.
Najib as head of BN would not be able to table the new boundaries at the current Dewan Rakyat sitting.
Assuming the Federal Court renders a judgment favourable to the EC by next year, PH has no more recourse to delay the delimitation exercise.
The EC could then submit the delimitation documents to Najib who can then table it at the March-April Dewan Rakyat meeting.
Wong argues that the delimitation exercise does not necessarily benefit the BN.
“The delimitation only makes things more volatile. If there is a small shift in sentiment, BN can either win big or lose big.”
This was illustrated in the 2008 election, Umno, BN’s vote share declined by 30% but it lost 70% of its seats.
“So with the delimitation BN can gamble on getting back two-thirds majority in Parliament if it does well. If it does not, and the opposition is consolidated, it can lose power.”