South-east Asia Editor In Kuala Lumpur
Ahead of Nomination Day for the May 9 general election, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday defended his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s choice of candidates, amid discontent from those who had been dropped from the list.
The premier said the candidates were assessed by their performance over the past five years, taking into account their relationship with the local community.
“The diversity of the BN candidates is not just to win minor battles, but… to win big. It is pointless to win minor battles but lose the war,” he said, as quoted by national news agency Bernama.
“At the end of the day, political consideration precedes everything else in the selection of candidates.” Today, candidates who want to contest Malaysia’s 14th general election, which observers expect to be a close fight, will register themselves with the Election Commission (EC). They can contest for a seat in the federal Parliament, a state assembly seat, or both.
There are 222 parliamentary seats up for grabs, with each winner becoming an MP. There are also 505 seats to be contested in 12 of Malaysia’s 13 states, with the winner becoming a state assemblyman or assemblywoman.
Sarawak will hold elections for only its 31 Parliament seats, as its state polls were held in May 2016. Nomination centres will be open from 9am to 10am for candidates to submit their nomination forms. A candidate has to deposit RM10,000 (S$3,400) for a Parliament seat, and RM5,000 for a state seat.
A candidate will lose his deposit if he fails to garner at least 12.5 per cent of all votes cast in that constituency.
Candidates are usually confirmed around noon on Nomination Day, after which the official election campaign period, totalling 11 days, will start. Campaigning will end at midnight on May 8.
One key feature in the incumbent’s favour will be multi-cornered fights in most parliamentary seats. Three main groups are set for battle: BN; the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) pact led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad; and the Gagasan Sejahtera coalition led by Parti Islam SeMalaysia, which aims to contest at least 130 seats.
PH’s four parties – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Democratic Action Party, Parti Amanah Negara and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) – decided to contest under the banner of PKR after their plan to get PH registered was blocked by the Registrar of Societies, which said PPBM had failed to satisfactorily submit documents relating to its meetings.
The EC’s new guidelines have also been decried for restricting campaign material to photographs of only two leaders of a political party – the president and deputy president, or equivalent – and the photo of the candidate for that constituency.
As the PH members will contest under the PKR logo, they can use pictures of only PKR president Wan Azizah Ismail and deputy president Azmin Ali. They will not be able to use those of Tun Dr Mahathir, who they are banking on to attract Malay voters, except in Langkawi, where he is contesting.
Voter turnout, which was 84.8 per cent in 2013 when polling was on a Sunday, could also be lower as Polling Day this time falls on a Wednesday.