MALAYSIA’S Election Commission on Tuesday set May 9 as the polling date for the country’s 14th General Elections, in what is seen as the most contentious vote the ruling coalition will face in its 61-year reign.
Election Commission (EC) chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah said May 5 has been set for early voting, while the nomination date will fall on April 28.
Campaign period, he said, will be held over the span of 11 days. In the 2013 general election, the campaign period lasted for 15 days, according to the New Straits Times.
“The EC has held a meeting and established that polls must be held within 60 days of the date of dissolution,” Mohd Hashim said, as quoted by Reuters.
Mohd Hashim said there were 14,940,526 registered voters. The set duration for campaigning falls short of the minimum three weeks recommended by Malaysian electoral reform group Bersih.
The reform group has also condemned the commission’s decision to hold the polling day on a weekday over fears of a poor voter turnout.
“This raises the question for people wanting to take leave to travel to their hometowns and it reduces access to voters unless 9 May is declared a public holiday,” said Maria Chin Abdullah, former Bersih chairman who is now contesting elections with the opposition alliance.
Media Statement (10 April 2018): BERSIH 2.0 Condemns the Dates for the 14th General Election pic.twitter.com/rPzDNlF9pv
— BERSIH 2.0 (@bersih2) April 10, 2018
In the last election, the BN coalition, led by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) that represents the majority Malay ethnic community, took on an unprecedented defeat with the popular vote.
The opposition clinched only 40 percent the seats in the last election, but won 51 percent of the popular vote, owing to the country’s “first-past-the-post” electoral system that counts the majority of seats in the country’s constituencies.
— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) April 10, 2018
The Opposition and civil society groups have pressured Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down over graft allegations regarding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state investment firm, the subject of probes in at least six countries, including the US.
Despite the allegations, political pundits said Najib is expected to breeze through the polls in the next election, which would extend his rule for a third five-year term, maintaining BN’s unbroken rule since independence in 1957.