Politicians to use economic issues as ‘tool’ to win GE15

Umno will likely win the most seats and be able to drive the formation of the next ruling coalition 


THE issue of recession and Malaysians’ socioeconomic well-being is expected to take centre stage in the upcoming 15th general election (GE15), according to analysts and economists. 

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) senior lecturer (political study) Dr Mazlan Ali viewed that political parties, especially the Opposition, will use the current prevailing economic issues as a “tool” to get voters’ support in the upcoming GE15. 

He noted that GE15 will be held on the back of the worst economic crisis and several economists have already warned that there will probably be an economic recession next year. 

“Malaysians have been asked to be frugal and advised not to be wasteful. Apart from that, it is also crucial to note that the ringgit has fallen to a 24-year low as a result of a stronger dollar and domestic political risks which has dampened sentiment. 

“The local currency is now at its weakest level since January 1998, during the Asian Financial Crisis. 

“Therefore, I am sure that political parties will use these economic issues as a tool to campaign, especially in urban areas where more people are affected by the looming economic crisis,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) when contacted recently. 

Mazlan also stressed that politics has added further uncertainty in Malaysia as some party leaders are pushing for an early election to take advantage of better-than-expected economic growth. 

Meanwhile, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun said the top issue that will be given importance by political parties in the election would be the rapidly deteriorating socioeconomic situation in the country. 

He added that in most countries, a deteriorating economy would usually drive voters away from the ruling party, however, in Malaysia, many people view government assistance as the solution to tighten them over the difficulties. 

“A deteriorating economy would actually drive more voters toward Umno, which its many supporters associate with generous handouts,” he told TMR. 

Oh added that Umno will likely win the most seats and be able to drive the formation of the next ruling coalition. 

He pointed out that Umno wanted early elections so they could further consolidate their power with a bigger victory. 

“The continuation of Umno rule would likely not see much structural reforms that are needed to transform the economy into a high value-added one, but instead more of the same emphasis on distribution and not the creation of wealth,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Centre for Market Education (CME) CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito opined that holding the election now is a positive thing, as the past few governments lacked vision and long-term strategy. 

He added that the past ruling governments were mainly reactive, and many bad decisions were taken during the term. 

“The elections are forcing the parties to start discussing long-term plans and to commit to them. 

“The economic direction will surely be affected by the political economy platform that will win the elections,” he said. 

Nevertheless, Ferlito said the outcome of the GE15 will surely have an influence on the country’s growth trajectory. 

He noted that, however, we need to be careful in talking about the “worst economic crisis” or “recession”, as the country is not yet in a crisis nor in a recession, and the economic trajectory is still positive. 

“Surely, there will be a slowdown between the end of the year, mainly due to wrong economic decisions over the past two years, the inflation created by the government and the international scenario. 

“But the intensity of such a slowdown is yet to be assessed and it will depend on many different factors,” he said. 

Commenting further, Ferlito stressed that what the country needs at the moment is some important and unpopular reforms in the realm of taxation, labour and investment ecosystem. 

“We also need less burden on the government and the economy. “If these reforms are implemented, we could navigate better through the waves that are coming,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the nomination day is set for Nov 5, while the early voting day is Nov 15. 

According to Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Salleh, the campaigning period is set for 14 days from Nov 5 for all candidates and political parties contesting until 11.59pm on Nov 18. 

He said the by-election (PRK) of the Bugaya State Legislative Assembly (DUN), Sabah will also be held simultaneously to fill the vacant seat. 

“The Election Voters List (DPPR) that will be used for GE15 and Sabah’s Bugaya State Assembly by-election is the latest voter list until the additional voter list in August 2022 which was updated to Oct 9, 2022, involving 21,173,638 voters. 

“It involves 20,905,366 ordinary voters, 146,737 military personnel and their spouses, 118,794 policemen and their spouses including members of the General Operations Force (PGA) Police and 2,741 over- seas absentee voters,” he noted. 

At the same time, Abdul Ghani said, GE15 will be held to fill the vacancies of 222 parliamentary seats, as well as 42 seats in the Pahang State Assembly, 15 seats in the Perlis State Assembly and 59 seats in the Perak State Assembly. 

He added that the application process for all overseas and domestic postal vote categories has been open since Oct 10 for GE15 and from Oct 13 for the Bugaya State Assembly by-election. 

The closing date for applications is Nov 2 for category 1A involving election officers, EC members or officers, police and military personnel and media personnel. 

“Oct 23 is the closing date for category 1B, which is Malaysian citizens who are abroad, and Oct 26 for category 1C, which is agencies and organisations,” he said. 

Abdul Ghani also said a total of 363,515 officers will be appointed to handle the GE15 process and the Bugaya Sabah State Assembly by-election. 

A total of 8,958 ordinary polling stations containing 38,348 polling stations or channels and 578 early voting stations for voting containing 970 polling stations or early channels will be used. 

“The total number of polling stations is 9,536 with 39,318 polling stations or channels. 

“The GE15 and the Sabah State Assembly by-election are estimated to require an allocation of RM1.01 billion,” he said. 

Previously, Abdul Ghani had noted that the EC had received an official notification from the Speaker of the House of Representatives regarding the declaration of the dissolution of the 14th Parliament term by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdul- lah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Oct 11. 

He added that the EC also received a notification letter regarding the dissolution of the 14th State DUN for three states namely Pahang and Perlis dated Oct 14 and Perak on Oct 17 by the Speakers of the respective DUNs. 

“Further official notification was also received from the Speaker of the Sabah State Assembly after the Emergency Proclamation (No 3) and Emergency Ordinance (Necessary Powers) (No 3) were cancelled, regarding the vacancy for the Bugaya State Election Division on Oct 12,” he said. 

Three states controlled by Paka- tan Harapan (PH), namely Selangor, Penang and Negri Sembilan, and three more states governed by PAS, namely Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, previously decided to hold state assembly elections next year. 

The six states in question contribute a total of 245 state assembly seats. 

As for the other 239 state assembly seats in Sabah, Sarawak, Johor and Melaka, all of them will not be contested since the state has just finished holding the state elections (PRN). 

On Oct 10, caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced the dissolution of Parliament after Al-Sultan Abdullah’s approval to make way for GE15. 

Ismail Sabri made the announcement through a special message which was broadcasted live across the country, via TV and online media at 3pm. 

The dissolution took place about nine months before the term of the 14th Parliament ends on July 15, 2023, thus answering all the riddles and speculations that have been floating around for the past few weeks regarding GE15. 

PM explained that he had appeared before the King at noon on Oct 9 to submit a request document to His Majesty regarding the dissolution of the 14th Parliament. 

Earlier, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had approved the cancellation of the Emergency Proclamation and Ordinance for three constituencies, namely the Grik Parliament in Perak, Batu Sapi in Sabah and the Bugaya DUN also in Sabah. 

The cancellation allows the by-elections which were supposed to be held in 2020, but was postponed to curb the spread of Covid-19, to be held simultaneously with this GE. 

Along with the increase in the number of voters for GE15, following the introduction of Undi 18 and the automatic voter registration, the official voting period has also been extended until 6pm, compared to 5pm in the previous elections.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition