Open letter to the EC

― Tessa Houghton
The Malaysian Insider
May 27, 2013

May 27 ― Dear EC Deputy Chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar,

I wish to comment on your recent statements in an interview reported in The Malaysian Insider, dated May 27, 2013 (reproduced below):

According to Wan Ahmad, the electoral system used in Malaysia is also used by developed countries that have been practising democracy for a long time.

“Britain, already a few hundred years practising democracy, until now it uses first past the post… Australia, first past the post. New Zealand first past the post mixed a bit with the proportional representation (PR) system. India, the largest democratic country in the world, 800 million voters, first past the post,” he said.

The EC deputy chairman said it would not be possible for PR to win so many seats, including a few states, if the “first-past-the-post” system was unfair.

New Zealand does not, as you state, utilise FPP “mixed a bit” with PR. It utilises the Mixed Member Proportional system (MMP), which is distinct from simple/’single winner’ FPP. New Zealand used to suffer under the same simple FPP system as Malaysia currently suffers from, which resulted in the right-wing National Party consistently gaining power despite a majority of New Zealanders voting for the left-wing Labour Party, and in a lack of recognition of smaller parties. Wide-scale electoral reform was undertaken in 1992 in response to huge dissatisfaction with the system, through a referendum that allowed NZ citizens to decide on their preferred voting system.

Almost 85 per cent of New Zealanders voted to throw out FPP, with over 70 per cent voting to replace it with MMP. A 2011 referendum held to re-gauge New Zealander’s voting preferences found almost 60 per cent of New Zealanders in favour of retaining MMP, and less than half of the 42 per cent wanting change expressing a desire to return to FPP.

As such, your claim that NZ “uses FPP” and conflation of the two systems is a grave misrepresentation of New Zealanders’ opinions on the system of FPP used in Malaysia. Ordinary NZ citizens understand the myriad voting systems available and have clearly registered their preferences. I take issue with you misrepresenting my country in an attempt to silence both the widespread criticism of both Malaysia’s iteration of the FPP system and the EC’s conduct.

I am proud of my country, even though I do not support our current government ― we regularly top corruption indexes as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, and were recently named world leaders in a human freedom index. No country is perfect, but I am proud of the fact that as a New Zealander, my government a) regularly asks NZ citizens for our opinions on matters of national importance, and b) regularly respects our decisions.

NZ chooses MMP because it prevents smaller parties (such as the New Zealand Maori Party and the environmentalist Green Party) from being crushed by two-party Labour/National dominance. We also recalculate our electoral boundaries every five years, using census results, to ensure that electorates are approximately equal, with a tolerance of voter population inequality of only +/- 5 per cent between electorates, so as to eliminate gerrymandering and malapportionment. Contrast this with the difference tolerated between the electorates of Putrajaya and Kapar ― an inequality in voter numbers of over 900 per cent. NZ also has strictly enforced rules to ensure equality and restraint in campaign advertising funding, fair media access for all parties, and an independent Election Commission overseeing the entire process.

I could go on to criticize your misrepresentation of Australia, which utilizes a preferential voting system with the option to cast votes “above” or “below the line” ― again, something entirely distinct from simple FPP ― but I will leave it to an Australian to defend their system in detail. There are also subtle but important differences in the way the UK and India operationalize their FPP systems, to do with electoral boundary maintenance and inequality prevention. These important differences should not be ignored or glossed over. For a start, it is worth noting that NZ, Australia, the UK and India all allow citizens to vote from age 18 onwards, a full 3 years before Malaysia (which has the highest voting age in the world), and much more in line with the international norm and with other recognitions of “adulthood”.

I hope that you will, in future, refrain from likening the electoral system in Malaysia to that present in NZ. I also hope that you will take note of the many systems in place in NZ (and elsewhere) to ensure fair and free elections, and begin performing your duty as a civil servant to ensure that Malaysian citizens are afforded the same basic democratic rights.

* Dr Tessa Houghton is assistant professor in Media and Communication, and director of the Centre for the Study of Communications and Culture, University of Nottingham Malaysia

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 7:23 am

    Making EXCUSES, bad ones included almost always, is a NATIONAL DISEASE and UMNO/BN core competency..

    Arguing about whether our system is OK or not is simply ARGUMENTATIVE – reason is not going to win with those making excuses while those making excuses will never stop making them.. The only reason to argue is that the ignorant voters need to be educated but any teacher will tell you, when you get to the dunce in the class, mass education as mass propaganda simply fails..

  2. #2 by Sallang on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 8:09 am

    Dear Dr Tessa Houghton,
    Malaysia was a model for other developing country, ‘once upon a time’.
    We are proud, that we can live ‘peacefully’, despite having so many ethnic groups.
    The smartest ethnic group is UMNO/BN.
    FPP stands for a different meaning in Malaysia.
    ‘Forgo People Problem’, ‘Fill Personal Pockets’.

    May God Bless you and Malaysia.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 8:14 am

    The complete lack of professionalism by EC Deputy Chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar in dealing with the “first-past-the-post” system has left many patriotic voters with a bad taste.

  4. #4 by drngsc on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 8:21 am

    Dear Dr Tessa,
    Thanks for the effort, but I really do not think that the EC deputy chairman understands what you are saying. His job is to help BN win, and when fraud is discovered to make excuses.
    What you forgot to mention is that in all the countries mentioned by him and you, the EC deputy chair, cannot be a party member. That on its own will disqualify him.
    We will surely have to throw him out and have him pay for his sins, if not in this world, surely in the here after.

  5. #5 by PRmaju on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 8:30 am

    EC’s role is not to ensure fair election, but to cheat and to help umno win. umno ultimate scoundrel mamakthir taught them . What is a bit of cheating, even giving IC is not a problem! After you win, you can use Petronas ringgit to pay and to silence everyone !

  6. #6 by balance88 on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 10:35 am

    The Deputy Chairman’s comment is a reflection of the sad and sorry state of the standard and quality of our people in public office. These so-called chairmen, ministers and others holding public office seems to think that the Malaysian rakyat is uneducated, stupid and incapable of making comparisons and analysis. And mind you, some of them are degree holders.

    The electoral systems in most democratic countries are not perfect but they are not fundamentally flawed like Malaysia’s. Datuk Wan’s comments is very superficial and it is very clear that there is either a lack of in-depth analysis or is incapable of making an intelligent analysis of the different electoral systems.

  7. #7 by Bunch of Suckers on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 10:45 am

    Snaky sucker, please crawl back to your stinky hole and hide inside there permanently rather than to cocky and snaky around with your capability!!!

    Shameful, you had been popped out to shame yourself and your bears, snaky sucker

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 5:24 pm

    Dear Dr Tessa

    I get the impression that you’ve just got off the steamer at Port Swettenham by mistake and landed at Nottingham Semenyih when it should have been Nottingham UK. Nevertheless you are most welcome in the Malay Peninsula where many untamed animals still roam.

    The natives here are just like your sheep and are happily inclined to follow the UMNO sheep which, it must be said, does not share the same DNA as your Merino sheep. However of late, 52% of them are happy to go out of their usual pastures to graze while 47% just loves their usual staple of grass and grub.

    The landlord however still thinks he’s got them all as they all remain within his boundary posts. Many, many strays however have come within from neighbouring pastures and are quickly legalised and given equal grazing rights if they all baa-baa for him to the consternation of 52% of the freedom loving-sheep who wants equality, freedom and justice.

    We do not have any properly trained sheep-dogs, like in your country farms, to control the flock however. Ours are of the E-C breed which are a bit dicey and anything-goes type. They usually bark at the moon, rockets, anything with black eyes and anything that does not fancy them. It is very hard to train our dogs as they are incorrigible to the bone and yes, they do salivate and foam at the mouth a lot. Must be the diet the owner gives them.

    However, in this animal farm, it is good to note that 52% of the sheep are now ganging up and have black wool now to identify themselves and signify their unhappiness of not being properly managed, treated and ignored. Maybe something good will come out from this ‘unity’ and things will change for the better on the farm. We will have to wait and see whether the farmer will be chased out soon from the dell. Wish all the ‘black sheep’ every success in their endeavours.

    I hope you enjoy your stay in our farm yard to observe and record the on-goings here for posterity and to share your experiences from your farm. Should you be able to train our farm-dogs to guard the farm better, please let the farmer know before he is evicted by the black sheep.

    Yours sincerely

    Frank Sweetened Ham

  9. #9 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 11:08 pm

    Dr Tessa Houghton said to Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar”……begin performing your duty as a civil servant to ensure that Malaysian citizens are afforded the same basic democratic rights.”

    Malu-lah, to be told off by a foreigner in this manner. If our dear deputy EC Chairman has any dignity left, he should quit. EC, of which he is a key element, screwed up the indelible ink despite two years of mucking around with its implementation. There is also the many unanswered claims of multiple voters in each address, phantom voters etc all of which adds up to a picture of a systematic electoral fraud and yet the EC pretends there in nothing wrong and the voters are a bunch of ignoramus who will believe his incredulous excuses.

  10. #10 by Aristotle on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 - 11:54 pm

    How to reform the electoral system when EC is unwilling to accept criticism even when it appears to be a constructive one? There is simply lack of willingness to reform. Even our new Menteri Belia dan Sukan also opined that there is no”fraud”. No “fraud” or no possibility of “fraud” happenning even there are thousands of police report being made. For people like our dearest Zahid Hamidi, it is pretty simple : “Accept it or leave the country if you intend to go against it!”. Coming GE14, what fiasco or flop are we expecting again from EC? Perhaps something to replace indelible ink? Well EC better pray hard that Rafizi evidence and justification of fraud turn out to be weak. What is UMNO so worry anyway ? They still got until GE14 to rule the country . It is just that they cannot accept a 1/3 simple majority victory. Arrogant by blaming others but never take a step backward to reflect on its own first. Goodness, now Najib is really expecting the people to believe that the country is moving forward towards developed status by 2020.

  11. #11 by Noble House on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 - 2:59 am

    QUOTE: I hope that you will, in future, refrain from likening the electoral system in Malaysia to that present in NZ. I also hope that you will take note of the many systems in place in NZ (and elsewhere) to ensure fair and free elections, and begin performing your duty as a civil servant to ensure that Malaysian citizens are afforded the same basic democratic rights. – UNQUOTE.

    Hear! Hear! Really, can anyone expects this knucklehead to understand the meanings of the word “civil servant” is all about?

  12. #12 by worldpress on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 - 12:44 pm

    Imagine possibilities if election 5%-7% was faulty/damage votes purposely, cheated votes.

    It mean both parties share is 40-42 and 58-60

  13. #13 by on cheng on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 - 9:46 pm

    As there is no guideline or limit on the number of voters in each parliament seat, e.g. if they re draw seats in Sabah / Sarawak, to increase the East Malaysia seats from 57 to 105, while decrease seats in 10 states (minus Johor) of Peninsular from 139 seat to 75 seats, and increase seats in Johor from 26 to 45, what can you do ??

  14. #14 by on cheng on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 - 9:52 pm

    As there is no label on ballot boxes, and nobody knows how many valid ballot boxes of valid votes at 5pm, they can always suddenly deliver more ballot boxes to counting centres near the end of vote counting, all main main only !

  15. #15 by on cheng on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 - 9:54 pm

    he forget to say whether in other countries, have a factor of 9:1, for seat with most n seat with least voters, Kapar vs Putrajaya ?

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