Holding a general election isn’t a walk in a park. There are many procedures that the Malaysian government has to follow before a general election can happen, so don’t worry, it won’t happen overnight!
According to the Constitution of Malaysia, and the Election Commission that governs elections in Malaysia, there are six steps that must be taken to conduct a general election. Before the election process, though, there’s one important step that cannot be missed, namely:
Dissolution of the Parliament
Before the election process can begin, it must be kick-started by the dissolution of the Parliament. Basically, this is the step where the current government is dissolved in preparation to receive a new one. According to the Constitution of Malaysia, a general election must be held at least once every five years, although the Prime Minister may request for the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve the Parliament earlier, before the five years are over. This has been done in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1999, and 2008.
Once the Parliament has been dissolved, Malaysia has a maximum of two months (West Malaysia) or three months (East Malaysia, basically Sabah and Sarawak) to hold a general election.
Writ and Notice of Election
Following the dissolution of Parliament, The Election Commission (EC) must issue a writ to returning officers of the constituencies involved. This writ will allow the officers to begin conducting elections in their respective areas. At the same time, the EC has to post a notice of election up for public viewing in multiple places. The notice should contain the nomination date, polling date and advanced polling date (if applicable).
For candidates who plan to enter the political arena, they’ll have to take note of the deadline to present their complete nomination papers, and pay a deposit of RM10,000 for a parliamentary seat or RM5,000 for a state seat. This deposit is only refundable if the candidate garners at least 12.5% of the votes in the constituency they are campaigning in. In addition to all that, the candidate must be a citizen of Malaysia, sound of mind, and not bankrupt. If only one candidate is eligible to contest in any constituency, they will obtain an uncontested win in the election.
Campaigning can begin at the end of the nomination stage and end at midnight before the polling date. Even here, candidates are limited to a campaigning expenditure of RM200,000 for a parliamentary seat or RM100,000 for a state seat. Legally, they’ll have to get creative and stretch their ringgit as far as possible to cover their constituency! If not, they run the risk of being nabbed by the EC’s special task force, who will monitor the campaigns and reserve the right to remove non-complying campaign materials, or to end illegal forums.
This is the day everyone takes notice of, because this is the stage where voters travel in droves back to their constituencies to vote for their representatives (the candidates contesting). If an advance polling will be held, such as the one for police and military personnel in GE 13, then those voters can cast their vote earlier, and have their ballot boxes locked away securely to be tallied with regular votes on the actual polling day.
For the rest of Malaysia, the voting process will begin in the morning and end in the evening. Each voter must collect their ballot papers from an EC officer, who will check your identity card against a list of registered voters at the station. If indelible ink will be used again, that EC officer will also check for traces of indelible ink on your left index finger. A second EC officer will ink your left index finger if you pass the first officer. A third officer will tick your name off their list.
With your ballot papers, go into a voting booth, vote for the member of parliament and state assembly representative of your choice, then deposit your ballots in the correct boxes in the presence of election officials and agents of contesting candidates.
This is when the alleged “blackout” story occurred in GE 13 (it was later apparently debunked). Anyway, once the polls are closed, the presiding officer in every station will tally the ballots and separate those with ambiguous or unclear markings or spoiled votes. They must then ensure that all those spoiled and unspoiled ballots, plus the unused ballots, equals the number of ballots distributed to the station in the morning. When confirmed, they are to fill up a form with the tally, send it to the vote tallying centre, and have the returning officer announce the results.
Announcement of Results
This is pretty clear-cut: now that everyone who is eligible has voted, and the ballots tallied, it’s time to see who the winner is. Any candidate who is dissatisfied with the results may petition with the Election Court to review the results.
A general election is a lengthy, stressful process, influenced in no small amount by the fact that the people of Malaysia are effectively choosing their own government to govern them for the next five years (or less). What will GE 14 bring us?