Observing Malaysian Social Media

The Rural-Urban Divide in Malaysia’s General Election

108 out of 133 seats won by Barisan Nasional (BN) came from rural seats. 72 out of 89 seats won by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) came from urban and semi-urban seats.

While it is true that PR won every Chinese-majority seat, there are only 30 Chinese-majority seats in the country. That leaves at least 59 seats won with the support of other races.

When comparing Malay-majority seats, PR won more seats than BN in both semi-urban and urban categories. A Malay-majority seat cannot be seen as a guaranteed victory for BN.

In terms of the popular vote, BN obtained 57% of the popular vote in rural seats, 47% of the popular vote in semi-urban seats, and 36% of the popular vote in urban seats. Looking at the winning majorities of individual seats, the probability of BN regaining urban seats is low. This gap in the popular vote is illustrated in the infographics at the end of this post.

That is the picture of the political urban-rural divide. BN represents the rural majority and can retain power with rural and semi-urban seats alone. This election highlighted PR’s weak areas which are rural seats, Bumiputra Sabah majority and Bumiputra Sarawak majority seats.

Research methodology

For this research we defined 3 categories of urban development:

Rural = villages (kampungs) / small towns / farmland distributed within the seat. Rural seats tend to be physically large with a low population.

Semi-urban = larger towns and/or numerous small towns, may include villages as well

Urban = cities where a majority of the seat is covered by some form of urban development

This classification was done by us based on Google Maps satellite imagery and SPR maps. This is not the same as SPR’s own internal classification of seats. You can find our reference maps here (link). The methodology was:

  1. Find the constituency on Google Maps (and Bing Maps, when the image wasn’t clear).
  2. Identify the area covered by urban development, and the degree of development
  3. Define the seat as rural, semi-urban or urban based on the guidelines above

This method was not ideal but it was practical given the lack of time and resources we have. A better method would be gridding (which you can read about here). We will re-examine the rural seats in the future and divide them into 2-3 categories.

We define an ethnic majority to be an ethnicity that is represented by more than 50% of the seat’s registered voters. A seat without an ethnic majority is defined as Mixed.

What follows is a summary of ethnic stats for each Parliament seat based on their category of urban development. The number of registered voters is shown in parentheses.

Total Seats

125 rural (5,756,489 voters)

  • 78 Malay majority
  • 16 Bumiputra Sabah majority
  • 18 Bumiputra Sarawak majority
  • 2 Chinese majority
  • 11 Mixed

54 semi-urban (3,952,432 voters)

  • 27 Malay majority
  • 12 Chinese majority
  • 3 Bumiputra Sabah majority
  • 1 Bumiputra Sarawak majority
  • 11 Mixed

43 urban (3,559,081 voters)

  • 14 Malay majority
  • 16 Chinese majority
  • 13 Mixed

Seats won by BN

108 / 125 rural (4,598,255 voters)

  • 66 Malay majority
  • 15 Bumiputra Sabah majority
  • 18 Bumiputra Sarawak majority
  • 9 Mixed

20 / 54 semi-urban (1,303,937 voters)

  • 12 Malay majority
  • 3 Bumiputra Sabah majority
  • 1 Bumiputra Sarawak majority
  • 4 Mixed

5 / 43 urban (330,193 voters)

  • 4 Malay majority
  • 1 Mixed

Seats won by PR

17 / 125 rural (1,158,234 voters)

  • 12 Malay majority
  • 2 Chinese majority
  • 1 Bumiputra Sabah majority
  • 2 Mixed

34 / 54 semi-urban (2,648,495 voters)

  • 15 Malay majority
  • 12 Chinese majority
  • 7 Mixed

38 / 43 urban (3,228,888 voters)

  • 10 Malay majority
  • 16 Chinese majority
  • 12 Mixed

Infographics (click for full interactive version)

Seats vs Voters by Urban Development

The Rural-Urban Divide

Seat Comparison by Urban Development

The Rural-Urban Divide(1)

Popular Vote Comparison by Urban Development

This shows theĀ number of votes cast for candidates from each coalition, divided by seat category.

The Rural-Urban Divide(2)

Seat Comparison by Ethnic Majority – Urban Development

This shows the number of seats categorised by the ethnic majority group and level of urban development. To see all the labels, please view the interactive version.

The Rural-Urban Divide(3)

Written by politweet

May 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm

17 Responses

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  1. This result is not true if cheating has occured. And I truly believe cheating has occured. So no point in me looking at this statistics.

    joe lee

    May 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    • Yeah, true cheating has occured. That’s why Pakatan won in Penang and Selangor and Kelantan. That’s why Kit siang, Anwar, Hadi Awang all won. They probably cheated too.


      May 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      • sigh… people that eyes are being blinded by “BR1M” are really pathetic… I actually symphatised with them for having such low intelligent and bad eyesight that they can’t see and understand what is right in front of them… sigh… I feel sorry for you, your parents, your ancestors, and your future generations.

        U mad, bro?

        May 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      • Mat u probably not from Sarawak, so most probably u don’t know the meaning of ‘cheating’. Those three that u mentioned won because of the overwhelming majority that’s why no matter what the BN do, they know that it is impossible to cover, but in the rural area where the winning votes are less than few hundreds, that’s where the ‘magic’ takes place. Anyway, now that they going to introduce the GST at 7%, yeah, happy to those that have voted for BN. Keep it up, you all gonna be taxed. hip hip hurray.


        May 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      • Please wake up Mat, and whoever agreed with you, Dun get blinded by BN’s br1m.. tell me please why do you support BN??


        May 24, 2013 at 12:52 am

      • Hey bro, try to prove it by showing us photos or video that the PR are lies/cheat.

        Pc Kung

        May 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

  2. Good job~ We need your research for next election


    May 22, 2013 at 9:46 am

    • joe lee and u mad bro.. agree!

      Nizam Aqlan

      May 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

  3. Baru bagi Br1m suda puji melambung BN. Tak tahu nanti BN nak laksana GST habis semua orang dia kasi tapau. Melayu memang lagi kaya dari Cina sebab Melayu tak suka pendidikan percuma, tak suka free tol, tak suka minyak murah, suka bayar cukai ntah apa2. Melayu saya maksudkan dekat sini Melayu yang tak suka perubahan.

    lee zhen yuen

    May 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    • malay not rich..malays are very smart and not idiot..we know by giving all free..the country will goes bankrupt..we know PR promises are full of LIES…
      1. we want PTPTN for better education. we don’t want free education but the quality will be like Uganda..
      2. we don’t care about TOL..in rural area..we don’t even have a car..!!!


      May 23, 2013 at 4:15 am

      • You say malays are not stupid. I agree. But you’ve been blinded by the government from the fact that Malaysia is actually very rich and has major export of resources. Our oil is top quality. It is sold overseas for jet fuel and the worst of it is what we get to keep. We have the best rubber but we keep buying tyres made in Thailand. We have an abundance of palm oil, the best refineries sell their oil to Europe, but our subsidised cooking oil is so dirty it’s disgusting, so we buy imported sunflower oil for cooking. Instead of using the best, we accept the worst. Instead of having the best of our own resources, we sell it off and use the leftover. But where’s the money? Well…I’ll let you decide. Malaysia made a promise at the ASEAN meeting that it would lower the taxes on all cars and parts to 0-5%. We’re one of the only countries that have a 9 year loan on a car. That didn’t happen. Malaysia makes so much money yet our currency rates are always low. None of us working class with income below 3k can afford to go overseas to EU or US as our money is worth peanuts apart from Thailand and Indonesia.

        1. PTPN loan is available for everyone. But its only required if you go to private college/uni. You don’t need it if you can get into UM, etc. but there’s a quota…oooo…that’s fair.

        2. You don’t have a car? Is it because you’ve spent the money supposedly for a car, on paying back that PTPN loan you took for education. An education that should be free.

        Stop just being content and open your eyes. We as the people have been lied to for 56 years. Don’t you think that’s long enough?


        May 25, 2013 at 1:52 am

  4. Election results are caused by complex factors-campaign by Opposition candidates can also be crucial. If candidates who lack profile in the villages are running the chances of them making it is slim. Also candidates going into elections cannot claim not to know about cheating going on before. A good strategy will find counters to all disadvantages faced by the candidates-not merely complained about things he knew before election-as true as the complaints are.


    May 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

  5. Reblogged this on SAMM Muar.


    May 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm

  6. Rural and semi-urban seats for BN. What about the illegal voters from Bangla, Pakistanis, Mamak (IIndian muslims) ??


    May 24, 2013 at 1:44 am

  7. I don’t care what is the result now, since it is not a fair one, buy vote, non-citizen vote, fake vote, a lot of bullshit thing.

    I see a lot of people is arguing that we Chinese want to bring Malay down
    I am a Chinese, and I want to tell you now, what I actually wan

    1. I don wan Rosmah keep buy cincin
    2. I don wan naXXX keep suck country money

    got problem??


    May 25, 2013 at 5:16 pm

  8. Urban is where jobs are, major companies, bussinesses etc are. Who controls most of urban seats? Make sense BN increase GST tax!


    May 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

  9. […] For further reading on the methodology please read this blog post. […]

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