(The Sun) German electoral system more democratic

Jacqueline Ann Surin
PETALING JAYA (Jan 22, 2007): An electoral system that provides for proportional representation of the votes cast, such as the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, is more democratic than the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system, an academic said.

Wong Chin Huat said Malaysia’s FPTP electoral system was not democratic because worldwide, FPTP notoriously produced seat-vote disproportionality, made much worse in Malaysia because of partisan constituency delineation.
He said the mal-apportionment of the FPTP system, coupled with gerrymandering (unfair electoral advantage by redelineating constituency boundaries), produced a scenario in the 2004 elections where Barisan Nasional (BN) won 91% of seats in Parliament with only 64% of votes.
Meanwhile, PAS only secured 2.7% of seats despite having 15% of voter support, DAP 5.5% of seats with its 10% voter support, and Parti Keadilan Rakyat 0.5% of seats with 9% voter support.
Wong, who is reading his PhD at Essex University on the electoral system and its impact on party system in West Malaysia from 1982 to 2004, said ideally, the percentage of seats secured by a party should be as close to the percentage of voter support it received.
However, the current electoral system has resulted in the BN enjoying a surplus of seats disproportionate to actual voter support.
“Effectively, a BN voter (in 2004) was worth three DAP, seven PAS and 28 Keadilan voters, completely defying the Ôone-person-one-vote’ principle,” Wong said, explaining that the ratio was calculated by dividing the total number of votes by the number of seats won by each party.
Wong added that the FPTP system also undermined the prospect for middle-ground politics, and was prone to electoral manipulations such as mal-apportionment, gerrymandering, and transportation and implantation of voters in marginal seats because the elections were reduced to geographical constituencies.
Conversely, he said in Germany’s MMP model, the legislature consisted equally of constituency MPs (like in Malaysia) and party list MPs.
“Every voter is given two ballots, one for the constituency, another for the party. Parties will be given additional seats other than their constituency seats so that the seats match their party ballot share,” Wong explained.
He said it was technically easy for Malaysia to undergo a transition to the German model, and that women, minorities, NGO representatives and professionals could be nominated via the party list for better policy debate while grassroots politicians could run for constituency seats and attend to local affairs.
The German model would also make mal-apportionment, gerrymandering and transportation of voters history because support for a party would not just depend on winning constituencies.
Wong said opposition parties, especially the PAS government in Kelantan, could lead the way in electoral reform.
“Under Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution, state governments may make law to authorise the Election Commission to conduct local elections. It means PAS can revive local democracy and experiment with electoral reform (using different electoral systems) for the nation’s benefit.
“For PAS Kelantan at least, this is actually a simple question of political will,” he said.
Election Commission chairperson Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said early this month, the commission wanted a review of election laws to uphold the democratic process of fair elections.
Opposition parties, election watchdogs and academics have documented electoral irregularities in Malaysia and called for reforms, but to no avail.
Both PAS and Keadilan have since announced a boycott of the Jan 28 Batu Talam state by-election to push for reform