Monday, November 13, 2006


Down With First Past The Post. Or Part of It.

A non-homogenous society isn't suited for exclusively first past the post systems.

For 49 years, the ruling Malaysian BN coalition has had a two-thirds majority in the federal legislature, with the exception of the 1969 General Elections, which was followed by you-know-what. However, never in Malaysian history has the BN obtained a two-thirds proportion of the total vote. This apparent disconnect is all down to the first past the post electoral system we practice.

Make no mistake, the Westminster system is still practiced elsewhere, and other methods are by no means definitively superior to it. However, Malaysian Westminster Parliamenterism has diverged greatly from other instances of it, mainly due to our sociopolitical structures.

For example, first past the post (FPTP from her onwards) systems are supposed to reduce the number of parties. This has ostensibly ben the case in terms of Malay based parties, but definitely not for the other parties. Lineation policies has also been done haphazardly, without documented justification for it.

In a highly heterogenous land such as Malaysia, the FPTP system has compounded matters where racial relations are concerned. Not that I agree with viewing politics in terms of race, but for now, I shall be a realist. For one, a winner takes all system blurs out proportional votes. This is especially bad because different social groups are significantly different from each other, and proportional representation of them is vital to maintain a truly representative legislature.

Therefore I advocate a Mixed Member Proportional Representation system for Malaysia. It's not perfect, and it's definitely more complex and would not be conducive for voters ignorant of electoral mechanisms, but its very suited for voter representation.

To put it simply, parties are allocated seats in the legislature via proportional representation. Howeverm contistuencies are retained, and local representatives still exists within the framework of the system. Every local representative fills up one slot of the allocated seat within the legislature, and if there aren't enough of them to fill up the party's quota, they may appoint more members (there are plenty of variations to how this is decided as well).

In the case where the number of local representatives exceed the party's allocated bumber of seats, there are numeous ways to accommodate this. Germany simply gives them more seats than allocated via proportional representations. There are also methods where extra seats are added for other parties to maintain proportionality.

There are, of course, loopholes. But these can be overcomed by numerous methods. Abuse via party splitting (read the Wikipedia article, because I'm too half-assed to elaborate) can be circumvented by forcing participation in national proportional voting if a party wants to compete in constituencies. Then, a minimum threshold should not apply, to allow parties with local representation but very small amounts of national vote to retain their seat.

Now this may seem a very big change, and utterly unnecessary. But I urge you all to go through election statistics, and you'll see that there is a huge discord between the proportion of votes garnered by opposition parties to the proportion of seats obtained. This is gerrymandering at its best.

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