Lawmakers vote to redraw electoral map

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian lawmakers voted on Wednesday to redraw the electoral map in what critics slammed as a bid to rig looming polls, sparking angry protests outside parliament and fury from opposition MPs inside. The election is expected within weeks and Prime Minister Najib Razak is battling to keep his long-ruling coalition in power despite allegations that billions of dollars were looted from a sovereign wealth fund he founded.
He is also facing a tough challenge from an opposition headed by veteran ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad, 92, who is seeking to win over the government’s traditional support base of rural voters.
After a heated debate in parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill to redraw constituency boundaries despite concerns that it will unfairly tilt the election in Najib’s favour. Opposition lawmakers got to their feet and jeered at the ruling coalition MPs and waved placards that read “rise up to stop cheating”. The changes must now by given royal assent but that is expected to happen quickly.
The opposition claims the overhaul will favour Najib’s coalition by decreasing voter numbers in BN’s traditional seats, making it easier for their MPs to be elected, and creating more constituencies dominated by the traditionally pro-government Malay majority.
But lawmaker Liang Teck Meng, whose party is a member of the ruling coalition, told parliament the opposition opposed the changes as “they know they will not get the mandate of the people to rule the country”.
Hundreds of protesters marched to parliament as the bill was tabled, waving banners that read “stealing an election is not winning an election”, and were joined at one point by Mahathir, who denounced the changes as “kleptocracy”.