Malaysia goes to the polls on 5 May. The lower houses of the federation and 12 of the 13 states are up for grabs. There is no real question about whether Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, will win, but there is a large question about whether that will show in the allocation of seats.
Malaysia has an electoral gerrymander that would have drawn a blush to the cheeks of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who ruled Queensland long after his party had ceased attracting anything like a majority of votes. At the 2008 national election, Anwar’s Pakatan Rakyat coalition won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote but took just 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament. The government held the rural seat of Putrajaya with just 6008 votes while the opposition needed 112,000 votes to take the urban seat of Kapar, in Selangor state.
Analysis by Bersih, the Malaysian corruption and election watchdog, has found that the gerry-mander means it is feasible for the ruling coalition to achieve a simple majority in parliament with as little as 18.9 per cent of the popular vote.
The really interesting things to watch will be the extent that Anwar’s predicted majority will be allowed to show in the results, and the extent to which the security forces will allow him to take office.