By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By BERNAMA
Almost 15 million Malaysians will go to the polls on May 9, 2018, to decide the leader and party that will helm the country for the next five years, in what is seen as one of the fiercest elections in recent times.
The Election Commission (EC) yesterday announced May 9, a Wednesday, as the polling date for the 14th General Election (GE14). Early and postal voters can cast their ballots on May 5.
Nominations for the 222 parliamentary and 505 state seats will be held on April 28, followed by a campaign period of 11 days, EC chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah said in Putrajaya.
Mohd Hashim had earlier chaired a special two-hour meeting to decide the date at the EC’s headquarters in Putrajaya.
He said the EC had received notifications of dissolution of state legislative assemblies from all states, except Sarawak.
Sarawak had its state election on May 7, 2016, and the government will be in power devolved until 2021.
Mohd Hashim said the deadline to register as advance and postal voters have been set as April 23 and April 28 respectively, although voters from both categories will vote on the same day.
The electoral roll, which was gazetted in the fourth quarter of 2017, will be on sale beginning April 16, allowing voters to check their latest voting status and details.
The EC said the country’s GE will cost RM500 million to conduct.
A total of 259,391 citizens will be appointed as poll workers at 8,898 voting centres and 28,995 voting streams.
“We have also invited 14 countries to observe our election process, aside from 14 other non-governmental organisations,” he said.
The official writ for the election will be issued today.
Mohd Hashim, however, did not entertain questions from the media on the rationale behind the Wednesday polling day.
News of the mid-week polling day had drawn comments from various sections of the society.
Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has expressed unhappiness over a weekday election day, which will tighten the ability of Malaysians to vote, especially those who need to travel back to their hometown to cast their votes.
“Those who have to ‘balik kampung’ to vote will be at an added disadvantage, especially those having to return to Sabah or Sarawak from the peninsula and vice versa.
“We can now expect to see even lower voter turnout and further hardship for all voters,” it said in a statement.
Bersih also urged the federal government to announce the polling day as a public holiday.
Social media was also abuzz with comments about the mid-week date, largely criticising the EC on the date selection. But many users are determined to return and vote, and had made the arrangements to return home.
“Hi I’m putting aside RM500-RM1,000 to help pay for flights to East Malaysia. Would prefer to subsidise rather than pay for outright trips, but DM ME! #PulangMengundi,” said twitter user @sam_sicilipadi.
A Twitter user Ganaesh Devaraj, whose tweethandle is @ganaeshd said: “I’ve set aside RM300 to help top-up anyone who’s trying to #PulangMengundi.
Social media users also urged employers, companies and corporations to announce a “public holiday” to allow their staff to return to their respective states to vote.
Some self-owned companies claim they will shut down their businesses on the voting day.
The law provides that companies are required to give a timeoff for their employees to cast their vote. The last GE saw the highest voter turnout of 84.84%, or 11.2 million, from the almost 13.3 million registered voters.