By Dr Mahathit Mohamad
1. Some who condemned my piece on Bersih 3 say that the ruling party abused the authority of the Government to ensure its success. They ask why rural constituencies have more seats for less voters. Why the gerrymandering.
2. This is because since the days of the British the urban areas tend to dominate politics and to be better served by the Government. To balance this, the poorly serviced rural areas have to be given higher representation in the legislature.
3. This is not new. It is common practice in the United States the state of New Jersey with less than five million people gets the same number of Senate seats (two) as California with more than forty million people. In most democratic countries some leverage is given to constituencies which for a variety of reasons are less developed.
4. As to the use of Government authority in elections; this is never clear-cut. There is no clear line when authority is exceeded.
5. When a party in power uses Government to implement policies, plans or strategies so as to ensure support by the people, can we say it is abuse of Government authority. On the other hand when the opposition loudly proclaims that they would do things which would gain them public support, are they not making use of Government authority for their popularity?
6. The opposition says that it would increase subsidies for fuel and fertilizer, replace PTPTN with free higher education and raise petroleum royalty to 20% to the states instead of 5%, isn’t it also making use of Government authority to win support of the voters?
7. Indeed whereas the incumbent has to be cautious as it knows the financial capacity of the Government, the Opposition has no such constrains. If it wins it can have all kinds of excuses for not keeping promises.
8. Abuse of Government authority is not confined only to the ruling party. The Opposition is also bent on abusing Government authority.
9. There may be areas for improving the conduct of Malaysian elections. But the fact remains that in Malaysia the Opposition can and have indeed defeated the Government party. If the Opposition fails to win at federal level, it is simply because the people chose not to support them with the required majority.