For the past 15 months or so, news have been rife with court challenges by various groups against the Election Commission.
These court challenges are against the Election Commission’s delimitation exercise (or redelineation as it is more popularly known).
Redelineation is a review of the division of constituencies as required under Article 113 of the Federal Constitution conducted by the Election Commission roughly every 10 years.
The reason for redelineation is population changes and shifts as time passes and it is important that constituencies are reflective of the population. Ideally, there should be an equal amount of voters in each constituency.
In practice, however, it is extremely difficult to achieve an equal amount of voters in each constituency. The Federal Constitution recognises this. This is why the Election Commission may take into various considerations such as available administrative and polling facilities, convenience of voters during election day, and maintenance of local ties.
The court challenges by various groups against the Election Commission is a coordinated effort by BERSIH and opposition political parties to frustrate this constitutional process undertaken by the Election Commission.
It is not difficult to ascertain their motivation. The opposition have been doing well under the current division of constituencies which have not changed since 2003. In 2008, the opposition won 82 out of 222 seats. In 2013, the opposition improved by winning 89 out of 222 seats. If the trend continues, the opposition’s seat count will improve. Any changes to the division of constituencies may affect their goal of winning the election.
So far, BERSIH and the opposition have been successful in their various court challenges. It has been almost 18 months since the redelineation process began on 15 September 2016.
They may not have been successful in quashing the Election Commission’s redelineation exercise but they have been successful in obtaining stay orders from the courts to delay the redelineation process. Each time the court grants a stay order, the redelineation process is delayed.
If they can prevent redelineation from taking place until Parliament is dissolved for the 14th General Elections, they would have achieved their goal.
This motivation of BERSIH and the opposition would of course not be told to the courts. Otherwise, it would be an abuse of court process to use the courts for the collateral purpose of political expediency.
Contrary to their claim of upholding the Federal Constitution, BERSIH and the opposition have allowed their politics to stand in the way of an important constitution process.
It has been 15 years since the last redelineation took place. It would be safe to assume that the current division of constituencies is outdated. If redelineation does not take place before the 14th General Election, it would result in the disenfranchisement of voters.
For the above reasons, the courts must be cautious in allowing BERSIH and the opposition to mislead them into delaying this important constitutional process.
The clock is ticking, let’s see if BERSIH and the opposition will be successful in running the clock down.