A political think-tank has outlined three scenarios that could potentially take place during the next general election, following the high numbers of multi-cornered fights in the 11th Sarawak state election.
Political Studies for Change (KPRU) executive director Ooi Heng said while the multi-cornered fights that took place during the Sarawak election was a contentious discussion for those in peninsular Malaysia, he noted that the impact of the controversy was less significant for the people of Sarawak.
“Imagine what will happen if, during the 14th general election, there are three-cornered fights, whether it involves Amanah and PAS or PKR and DAP? Surely the voting turnout will drop and affect the results of polling day.
“So what is the solution to the issue of overlapping seats among opposition parties? There are three scenarios,” Ooi said in a press statement today.
The first scenario – and the most likely one – he said, is that the opposition parties continue with their negotiations in the same way.
This will also mean that unilateral announcements from the parties will continue, he added.
In this scenario, he explained, one-on-one fights will probably be observed for a majority of the seats but there will still be a number of seats facing multi-cornered fights.
‘Complete overhaul of voting system’
The second scenario would see the complete overhaul of the voting system, Ooi said.
The country’s current voting system is the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, which means that the candidate with the highest votes wins, even if it is only by a margin of one.
This system is the reason why one-on-one fights became so important to the opposition, and also why jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim became such an important figure, he said.
“Hence, we have to either change the FPTP system or the opposition has to get Anwar out of jail,” Ooi said
“In a system which cultivates a fairer contest, the role of figureheads is not so important, because the system itself provides a fairer space of representation to all parties.
“But in a flawed system, figureheads like Anwar become important, as they can unite all main opposition parties and ensure one-on-one fights.
“Unfortunately, Anwar is in jail and the flaws of the system are obvious,” he pointed out.
If the opposition cannot get Anwar (photo) out of jail, and the system be reformed to proportional representation (PR), Ooi said that if there were multi-cornered fights like in the Sarawak election, PKR and DAP would be able to compete against each other in a fairer way.
He added that another system is the alternative voting (AV) system, where voters can vote by ranking their candidates of choice.
He cited an example where if PKR and DAP were contesting the same seat, PKR voters could choose DAP as their second choice while DAP voters could choose PKR as their second choice.
“Under this system, if there are no candidates with more than 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the lowest votes will be eliminated and the votes will be re-distributed to the rest of the candidates based on the alternative choices of the voters.
“This process must be repeated as long as there are no candidates with more than 50 percent of the vote. The AV system is to make sure that the winner can represent the majority of the constituency,” Ooi explained.
If both of those do not work, “we could also have a mix of several voting systems”, he suggested.
Voting system not likely to change
However, Ooi said the voting system overhaul does not seem likely to change as long as BN is the ruling government because the FPTP system clearly plays to the advantage of whoever dominates the federal administration.
This is especially true if the ruling government does gerrymandering and malapportionment, he said.
He added that the third and final scenario is for a reshuffling of the opposition coalition with a clear goal of ensuring one-on-one fights during the next general election.
In this case, he said, Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali’s invitation to PAS to rejoin the opposition coalition is very timely.
The Sarawak state election has proven that PKR, DAP, Amanah and PAS have failed to confront the flaws of the voting system, as they are out to protect their own party interests.
“In the context of the flawed system, their competition with one another, leading to multi-cornered fights, is very disappointing to the rakyat who hope to vote for the opposition to bring change,” Ooi said.
“Hence, if they don’t look into the three scenarios proposed and take rational political steps, we predict that the 14th GE will witness the terrible failure of the opposition in changing the ruling regime,” he added.