If you’ve been browsing our national news and blogs even sporadically for the past few months, you might have seen numerous rumours and guesses on when a Certain Event Will be Held. This refers to the next general election, but before we delve into the details, let’s get a brief overview of the electoral system in Malaysia!

Types of Elections in Malaysia

Malaysia is a democratic country. Therefore, our representatives and leaders are selected through elections, which are formal and organised choices by vote of a person for a political office or other position. In Malaysia, elections today occur at two levels: state and federal. This means we have 13 state-level elections and one federal election. Let’s learn more about them:

State Elections

At the lowest, and most populated, level of the legislative body in Malaysia is the state-level election. Politicians that are elected during state elections join the State Legislative Assembly (Dewan Undangan Negeri). Their tenure can span five years, but they are typically timed to coincide with parliamentary elections. State elections are normally dissolved by the state’s ruler or, or a governor as advised by a chief minister for states that don’t have rulers. This means that they can be held independently of federal elections, as was the case with Sarawak in 2006 and 2011.

Federal Elections

If you’ve been wondering when the term “General Election” will come into play, wonder no more, because a general election is basically a federal-level election. A general election takes place every five years. Here, voters elect 222 politicians into the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat). These politicians are meant to represent the rakyat at federal level, in our capital city. They, in turn, belong to their respective political parties, and every member of their parties added to the House of Representatives will bring their party that much closer to forming the federal government. Since the inception of Malaysia, the federal government has been formed by the National Front (Barisan Nasional), which means that it has held a majority of the seats in the House so far.


By-elections, or bye-elections, occur to fill elected offices that are vacated in between general elections. This event can occur upon the death or resignation of a bearer of the office, but it can also occur due to a sudden ineligibility of the person in question to continue holding that office due to a recall, ennoblement, criminal conviction, or failure to maintain a minimum attendance when the House convenes.

Snap Elections

A snap election is related to, but is not equal to, a by-election. Where by-elections are called to fill vacancies in office due to events that are out of control, snap elections are called deliberately by politicians who form the current ruling party in the state or country. Some of you might remember that DAP, the ruling party in Penang, tried to push for snap elections in Penang in 2016, and Barisan Nasional tried to push for one in Sabah this year, although both did not materialise.


Now that you know what the major elections are in Malaysia, you’ll be able to better understand how our country runs!

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