AFTER months of being stalled, the Election Commission will resume its controversial redrawing of election boundaries in Selangor today – an exercise that signal the 14th general election is imminent.
The first public hearing for Selangor will be done for the Kelana Jaya parliamentary seat where the EC is expected to hear objections from voters on the proposed new boundaries.
Pakatan Harapan and electoral reform groups have claimed that the proposed new boundaries or “redelineation” for parliamentary and state seats are unfair and will create ethnically homogenous constituencies.
Groups, such as Bersih 2.0 and Engage, are expected to assist voters to object to the proposed boundaries and demand that the EC amend its plan.
At the Kelana Jaya hearing, scheduled to take place at the Grand Blue Wave Hotel in Shah Alam, the EC is expected to hear from 20 objectors.
Engage’s Delineation Action and Research Team (DART) national coordinator Thomas Fann said half of the 835 objections received by the EC when it first displayed the proposed boundaries nationwide was from Selangor.
“From past delineation exercises, the EC usually called up half of those who submitted objections to attend the public inquiries.
“For the rest who are not invited, the EC only says they do not fulfil conditions without giving specific reasons,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
Sources said at today’s session, the objections are expected to include the increase of voters in the constituency and its increase in size.
Both objections are based on concerns that the ability of an MP or assemblyman to serve the constituency is affected because of the larger population or size.
Kelana Jaya has 56,790 voters. Its two state assembly seats, Subang Jaya and Seri Setia, have 40,366 and 18,692 voters respectively.
Kelana Jaya’s MP is Wong Chen of PKR, Subang Jaya’s assemblyman is Hannah Yeoh of DAP, while Seri Setia is represented by PKR’s Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
Selangor objectors, who have been rejected, are advised to call up and challenge the EC to give them specific reasons.
“The objectors should call them and demand an explanation. It was done by some in Kuala Lumpur and eventually EC gave in to them,” Fann said.
The hearings in the state are resuming after the Selangor government lost its court case to block the EC from continuing the redelineation exercise by holding public hearings.
The court case attempted to stall the hearings from taking place while Selangor gets a separate court decision to declare the redelineation exercise unconstitutional.
PH Selangor lawmakers have argued that the proposed electoral boundaries are unfair and are drawn to give Barisan Nasional an edge in recapturing Selangor.
DAP’s election strategist Ong Kian Ming said the exercise would reduce the number of mixed-ethnicity seats. In the 2013 general election, PH won most of these seats.
Observers have speculated that once the redelineation process for Selangor is pushed through in January, Prime Minister Najib Razak will call a special session of Parliament to approve the new boundaries.
Najib only needs a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat to pass the redelineation.
Once that is done, the general election is expected to be called after Chinese New Year on February 16 but before the start of Ramadan on May 17.
Today, Fann said seven commissioners will attend the hearing and listen to objectors.
“Section 5 of the 13th Schedule of the constitution implies that the full panel of commissioners should be in attendance at such inquiries.
“If a full board is not in place, the objectors should contact Bersih.”
Each objector will be given 30 minutes to present his objections.
“Usually the commissioners will not interrupt or ask questions. The rule states that Bahasa Malaysia is the medium of communication in an inquiry.”
Once the hearing is over, the EC will take study the objections but it is up to the commission on whether it wants to accept them and amend the new boundaries.
Selangor has 22 parliamentary and 56 state seats. Each hearing is organised according to parliamentary constituency.
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin has described the EC’s decision to hold a hearing during the Christmas-New Year week as an attempt to rush the redelineation exercise.
“Why do they have to rush the inquiry? It can always be done in January,” she said.