Malaysia Parliament set to make two key changes seen favouring ruling BN coalition before polls

  • Malaysia is set to make key changes in a final parliamentary session that starts 5 Mar 18, which critics say will help the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition win an impending general election.
  • The BN government has been accelerating the approval of these two key efforts in the last few weeks ahead of the month-long session that will be opened by the Malaysian King.
  • One of them is the drawing up of new electoral boundaries, known as redelineation, that analysts say would move in pro-BN voters into marginal constituencies, while packing opposition supporters into wards that are considered lost causes for the ruling pact.
  • The second change that the government wants to push through is the “fake news” legislation that the opposition believes will be used selectively to weaken its election campaign.
  • The 13-party BN coalition led by Umno can easily pass the two pieces of legislation due to its comfortable majority in parliament.
  • Analysts estimate that the extensive changes to electoral boundaries – affecting more than half of all constituencies – would deliver BN 10 more federal seats.
  • Recent court decisions have cleared the way for the Election Commission (EC), a unit under the Prime Minister’s Department, to finalise the new maps for national polls, expected to be held in May 18.
  • The commission completed a final step last week before putting the boundary changes to a vote in Parliament after hearing out objections in Selangor – the last state to see proposed new boundaries. The EC has ignored more than 80% of the 250 objections in the state, its critics say, but it has rushed to hear the objections put up by others with hearings that went on to 8pm.
  • Moreover, possible changes to Selangor could see BN’s chances enhanced in Malaysia’s richest state, a prize that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Umno has coveted the past decade.
  • The second piece of legislation, on “fake news”, will impose higher fines and jail terms.
  • The fake news committee was only announced on 30 Jan 18, but de-facto Law Minister Azalina Othman Said has said the government wants to table new legislation before Parliament closes on 5 Apr 18.

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