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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 5, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 44

The Maps to Power
Anwar's claims fill the court and the media
By ARJUNA RANAWANA Kuala Lumpur

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Indonesia: Unity in Diversity?
Maybe the all-inclusive new government will work. It had better
Call 'Em Wahidisms Quotations: The world according to Gus Dur
Is He Strong Enough? Wahid's health raises concerns
The Fight for Megawati Behind the scenes of the V.P. election
'East Timor Is a Tough Job' Australia's Downer on relations with Asia

ASEAN: An Indochinese Caucus After a conclave in Vientiane, fears of a split

Malaysia: Now, the Sinatra Principle 'We all did it our own way,' croons Mahathir
The Maps to Power Voting districts lay a confusing quilt
Trial by Dirt Anwar's claims fill the court and the media

The Philippines: 'My Ratings Are Down!' Estrada is moving into damage control

Viewpoint: Beyond Groundhog Day Is this Pyongyang's last chance to end the false starts?

  RELATED STORIES
ASIAWEEK
Malaysia Speculation continues over the election date (10/22/99)

Precedent Can Anwar run for Parliament from Prison? (10/22/99)

Malaysia's Election: Courting the Swing Vote
Indians now have more political pull(9/3/99)

CNN
Malaysia's opposition senses breakthrough
(10/13/99)

Signs Malaysian elections may soon be called
(10/07/99)

If there is one thing Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's United Malays National Organization (UMNO) is good at, it is winning elections. Now, one of the foundations of that success may have cracks in it where the Anwar Ibrahim drama hits home.

As in most democracies, some ballots in Malaysia count more than others. For example, the 16,085 voters in the remote constituency of Hulu Rajang in Sarawak sends one member to Parliament, just like the 98,954 voters in the constituency of Ampang Jaya near Kuala Lumpur. Even within one state, some seats have a fifth of the voters of others.

This creative drawing of constituencies - called gerrymandering - tends to give more weight to rural constituencies where the Malay majority and other indigenous peoples live, and which have historically provided UMNO with a bedrock of support. But after Anwar's sacking, oppositionists claim that the Malay community is split. Given the generally smaller size of those rural constituencies, slight shifts in voter preference could lead to large changes in seats. "If that is so," says former opposition parliamentarian Kua Kia Soong, "the ruling party could find that the gerrymandering has gone against them."

With no formal opinion polls to track voter sentiment, this assertion cannot be tested. Another point of dispute: Oppositionists claim the support of most of the 580,00 young voters registered since the last polls. But new voters cannot cast any ballots until next January. That could tip the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition toward earlier polls. Of course, BN says it has netted its share of new supporters. These uncertainties may help explain why Mahathir is keeping Malaysia guessing about when he will call an election, which must be held by next August.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home

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