The fight for Putrajaya begins

Some 222 parliamentary, 505 state seats will be up for contest in the GE14 — dubbed by political observers as the mother of all elections

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By AFIF ABD HALIM

The direction of the country for the next five years will be decided by about 15 million voters in the upcoming 14th General Election (GE14).

Some 222 parliamentary and 505 state seats will be up for contest (some constituencies with fresh names post-redelineation), in the GE14 — dubbed by political observers as the mother of all elections.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak has set the ball rolling by dissolving the Parliament on Saturday, followed by similar actions by all state legislative assemblies in the country (except Sarawak, which concluded its state elections in 2016).

The next one month would see electors nationwide being wooed by election machineries of political parties seeking to convince the voters to pick their party’s candidate to win the polls.

Following the Parliament dissolution, GE14 is required to be held within 60 days, between April 7 and June 6, 2018, — with a date is expected to be decided by the Election Commission (EC) this week.

The Muslims will observe the holy fasting month of Ramadhan from May 17, before which the elections are expected to be held.

During the last GE, the EC met seven days after the dissolution of Parliament on April 3, to set May 5 as the polling day. The last polls saw a campaigning period of 15 days.

As at the fourth quarter of 2017, the EC had 14.97 million registered voters in its electoral roll, of which 6.2 million voters are from the 21-39 years age group.

Women made up slightly more than half of the total with 7.5 million registered voters. At the end of last year, there were still 3.6 million Malaysians — aged 21 and above — yet to register as voters.

Election Process
As soon as the Dewan Rakyat is dissolved, the EC issues a writ to the returning officers of the various constituencies authorising them to conduct elections in their respective areas.

At the same time, a notice of election is posted in various places for public viewing. This notice contains the nomination date and the dates for early voting and regular voting.

A date will be set for candidates to present nomination papers to their respective returning officers, with a deposit of RM10,000 for a parliamentary seat, or RM5,000 for a state seat.

Election campaigning begins as soon as the nomination process is complete and ends at midnight before polling day.

A candidate for the Parliament may spend a maximum of RM200,000 on campaigning and a state assembly candidate is allowed up to RM100,000.

Advance voting on designated days before the actual election day allows police and military personnel to cast their ballots at their respective police stations and military camps.

Postal voting is where absent voters who are unable to come in person to vote, become advance voters by casting their ballots through the post.

All absent voters are by default advance voters and those unable to come in person to vote should submit their application to vote by post to their respective returning officers.

Those eligible for advance voting are members of the EC panel, election officials and staff.

It also includes any category approved by the EC as being eligible to vote by post through a gazette, such as those serving in the media.

Polling Day
The election day will kick off with the ec officer handing out ballot papers. The officer will first check a voter’s identity card against the list of registered voters at the station and then examine the index finger of the voter’s left hand to ensure that it has not been marked by indelible ink.

A second officer will then mark the voters’ left index finger. A third officer will tick off the voter’s name on the list and hand the voter the ballot papers — one for the voter to choose the member of parliament and the other for the voter to elect the state assembly representative.

The voter will proceed to the voting booth, make their choices and then deposit the ballots in the appropriate boxes.

The entire process will be observed by election officials and the agents of contesting candidates. The polling centres will close at 5pm.

Once polling closes, the presiding officer will tally the ballots. The officer will ensure the number of ballot papers received by the station at the beginning of the day equals the sum of papers given to voters and the number unused.

Ballots with ambiguous and unclear markings will be set aside.

After the other ballots are counted, the officers will go through the ambiguous votes to determine if they can be accepted. Forms showing the tally of ballots will be brought to the vote-tallying centre, where the returning officer will announce the result for each polling station.

Arduous Task for Ruling Coalition
Najib will be seeking a mandate to continue his present administration, thus maintaining Barisan Nasional’s (BN) winning streak since the country’s independence in 1957.

On the other side, former prime minister of 22 years, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is leading the Opposition pact.

Dr Mahathir would be backed by his country-building success stories between 1981 and 2003, while Najib would showcase steady economic growth and transformation cases in his nine years of administration since 2009.

BN captured 133 parliamentary seats to win the 2013 GE, but lost the popular vote to now defunct Pakatan Rakyat led by now imprisoned Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — a former nemesis of Dr Mahathir.

Political pundits have expressed concerns on the 2018 GE as it would be a testing floor for Najib’s administration.

To recap, former Prmie Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi-led BN lost its two-third Dewan Rakyat majority for the first time in 2008 since the 1969 federal polls.

In 2013, the ruling coalition lost the popular vote to the Opposition bloc.

Newer issues are expected to be harped upon by the Opposition during the campaigning period of this election if compared to the GE13.

Among new issues which bloomed in the last five years, namely are the Goods and Services Tax, 1Malaysia Development Bhd, rising cost of living, affordable housing and unemployment among youths.

Spoilt Votes
The existence of campaigns calling voters to spoil their votes as a sign of protest will also be an uphill battle for the political parties and the EC to battle.

The campaign to spoil the vote went viral in the social media since last year, as a way to vent out Malaysians’ frustrations on the political parties.

During the GE13, there were 173,868 spoilt votes, or 1.3%, of the total number of votes cast — the highest ever in Malaysian history.

In the next few weeks, the country will again go into overdrive as the political parties battle to win the heart, mind, soul and most important, the votes.