Ahead of expected elections in August, Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional coalition will today consider a redistricting bill that would help the group’s chances of retaining power.
Redistricting, or gerrymandering, involves manipulating electoral constituencies to benefit a party’s chances in an election. Indeed, gerrymandering has been a popular tactic of the BN, which packed thousands of opposition voters into a few electoral districts to win 133 seats in Malaysia’s 2013 parliamentary elections. Despite winning 3% more of the popular vote, the opposition only took 88 seats.
Although today’s bill will make it more difficult for the BN’s likeliest opposition, Pakatan Harapan, to win, gerrymandering may not be enough to save the coalition. Indeed, rampant corruption has reduced the BN’s popularity—Prime Minister Najib Razak is being investigated by five countries for funnelling some $561 million of stolen funds into his own pocket.
Regardless, with the media muzzled and opposition parties increasingly intimidated and unable to prevent today’s gerrymandering bill, the BN is expected to pass the bill and retain its 61-year hold on power.
Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.