Currently in Malaysia there are total of 27 registered political parties out of which 13 are in Peninsular Malaysia, 9 in Sabah and 5 in Sarawak. The ruling party, National Front (Barisan National) comprising 14 component parties forms the majority both in parliament and in 8 of the 13 State Legislative Assemblies. The Barinas Nasional defines itself as “a confederation “of political parties which subscribe to the objects of the Barisan Nasional”. Although in elections, all candidates stand under the Barisan National symbol, and there is a Barisan Nasional manifesto, each individual constituent party also issues its own manifesto, and there is intra-coalition competition for seats prior to nomination day
The major opposition parties include the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), Democratic Action Party (DAP), National Justice Party (KeADILan) was formed as People’s Alliance. Each political party in People’s Alliance has its own ideology; PKR promotes its ideals that revolve around social justice and anti corruption themes, PAS with its aim to establish Malaysia as a nation based on Islamic legal theory and DAP with its secular, multi-racial, social democratic ideals.
The Malaysian Election Commission
Matter pertaining to the Election Commission is provided for in Article 113 to 120 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution. The policy of the Election Commission is to safeguard, supervise and maintain the democratic process of the country through free and fair elections. It is responsibility of the Commission to ensure that the people are able to elect their representatives by direct votes at any election.
The Malaysian Election Commission consists of a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman and five other Members. Members of the Commission are appointed by His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after consultation with the Conference of Rulers, having regard to the importance of securing an Election Commission that enjoys public confidence.
The Secretariat (HQ) serves as the administrative centre for the Commission and its task to carry out and implement all functions, policies and decisions of the Commission. The Secretariat is headed by a Secretary who is the chief administrator for the organization. The Secretariat has fourteen state election offices, each headed by State Election Officers to carry out its functions. Members of the operating staff are drawn from the pool of the country’s administrative service.
The following are the main functions of the Election Commission:
Review and delimits Parliamentary and State constituencies at intervals of not less than eight years, following the date of completion of the last review.
carries out registration of electors and the revision of the electoral rolls throughout the year
Conduct general election to the Dewan Rakyat and State Legislative Assemblies and by-elections arising out of casual vacancies.
The various laws and regulations pertaining to elections are as follows Federal Constitution, State Constitution, Election Act 1958 (Act 119), Election Offences Act 1954 (Act 5), Elections (Conduct of Election) Regulations 1981, Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 and Election (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003 (A. Rashid Rahman, 1994, pg. 5).
In addition, reference is also made to other act such as Police Act 1967, Seditious Act 1948, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Act 301), Official Secrets Act 1972 (Act 88), Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588), Penal Code (Act 574), Criminal Procedure Code (Act 593) and Local Government Act 1976 (Act 171) etc.
Delimitation of Parliamentary and State Constituencies
The Federal Constitution provides for the election 222 members to the House of Representative, while the various State Constitution provide for specified of members to be elected to the respective State Legislative Assemblies.
The process of reviewing and delimiting Parliamentary and State Constituencies is one of the responsibilities of the Commission. Each constituency comprises a number of electors living in an identifiable geographical area. In conducting the review, the Commission is assisted by the Survey Department, the Statistic Department and the office of the Attorney General.
The Election Commission undertakes to review the constituencies at intervals of not less than eight years, following the date of completion of the last review. This review must be completed within two years from the date the review commences. Generally, the review of State Legislative Assembly Constituencies is undertaken at the same as the review of Parliamentary Constituencies.
In carrying out the delimitation of constituencies, the Election Commission adheres to, as far as possible, the principles stipulated under the 13th Schedule of the Federal Constitution, which are as follows:
While having regard to the desirability of giving all electors reasonably convenient opportunities of going to the polls, constituencies ought to be delimited so that they do not cross State boundaries and regard ought to be had to the inconveniences of State constituencies crossing the boundaries of federal constituencies.
regard out to be had to the administrative facilities available within the constituencies for the establishment of the necessary registration and polling machineries.
the number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal expect that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country district and the others disadvantages facing rural constituencies, a measure of weight age for area ought to be given to such constituencies.
Regard ought to be had to the inconveniences attended on alterations of constituencies and to the maintenance of localities.
The process of delimitation commences with the submission of the Notice of provisional recommendations by the Commission to the Speaker of the House of Representative and the Prime Minister. At the same time the Notice is published in the major newspapers, gazette and displayed in all constituencies for public scrutiny and comment for a period of one month.
The Commission must hold a local inquiry in respect of representations made within the period of displayed for public scrutiny for another month. The final recommendation is then submitted to the Prime Minister to be tabled before the House of Representative for approval. The new constituencies will only come into force upon the dissolution of Parliament and/or the State Legislative Assemblies.
Registration of Election
Elector means a citizen who is entitled to vote in an election to the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representative) or the Legislative Assembly of a State. Qualifying date means the date on which a person applies for registration as an elector in a constituency or the date on which he/she applies for the change of his/her registration as an elector in a different constituency.
Registration, Qualification and Disqualification of an Elector
Registration of electors is carried out throughout the year through Post Offices, Election Commission Offices and mobile teams. A person is qualified to register as an elector if:
he/she is citizen
he/she attained the age of 21 years
he/she is resident in a constituency on such qualifying date or if not so resident is an absent/postal voter, and
he/she is not otherwise disqualified
Meanwhile a person is disqualified to be an elector if:
On the qualifying date he/she is detained as a person of unsound mind or is serving sentences of imprisonment.
Before the qualifying date he/she has been convicted in any part of the Commonwealth of an offence and sentenced to death or imprisonment for a term exceeding 12 months.
he/she been convicted of an offence under the Election Offences Act 1954 or
He/she acquired citizenship of another country.
Registration Area/Polling Districts and Localities
For administrative purpose, each parliamentary Constituency represents a registration area. Within each registration area there are a number of separate registration units known as polling district. Under each polling district there are a number of sub-units known as localities. These localities or sub-units of a registration area comprise the various streets, kampongs, residential areas, and the like which reflect the demography of the area.
The name of electors in the principal electoral roll or the supplementary electoral roll foe each Parliamentary Constituency are arranged according to identify card numbers in numerical order by polling districts. No person is entitled to be entered on the principal electoral roll or supplementary electoral roll in more than one constituency.
Revision of Supplementary Electoral Roll
The revision of supplementary electoral roll is also carried out throughout the year as required by law. Supplementary electoral rolls are displayed for 7 days for claims and objections. After considering the claims and objections, the supplementary electoral roll will be confirmed by the Commission.
Entitlement to Vote
Any registered elector, whose name is in the certified principal or supplementary electoral roll, is entitled to vote at both the parliamentary and state elections. He/she can however only vote for the particular constituency and the particular polling station where his name has been registered as an elector.
Conduct of Elections
Unless an earlier dissolution of Parliament or of any State Legislative Assembly has taken place, the Federal Constitution provides for parliamentary elections and for election to the State Legislative Assemblies to be held once in every five years. General election must be held within sixty days of the dissolution of Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly.
Likewise, by-election has to be held also within a period of sixty days from the date established by the Commission to fill a vacancy as a result of death, resignation and loss of membership. A general election or by-election is set in motion by the issue of a writ to the Returning Officer by the Election Commission. A notice is published by the Commission in the Gazette specifying the date of nomination and date of polling. Nomination must be held not earlier than four days after the date of the publication of the notice and the polling not earlier than seven days after the day of nomination.
The Returning Officers issues a public notice inviting nomination of candidates. At the same time, he specifies the place and time of nomination. Normally, the nomination centre is the District Office, the Town Hall, the Community Centre or any other place deemed suitable for the occasion. Candidates can be from any political party or one may stand as an independent candidate. Nomination are made by filling the specified forms and delivered in person to the Returning Officer by the candidate, his proposer and secondary or by any one of them. Nomination papers must be delivered between the hours of nine and ten in the morning of the days of nomination. Nomination must be accompanied by an election deposit of ten thousand ringgit (RM 10 000.00) for Parliamentary election and five thousand ringgit (RM 5 000.00) for State Legislative Assembly election. The election deposit is forfeited if the candidates polls less than one eight of the total number of votes poled by all candidates in the constituency.
Nomination papers are displayed until 11.00 in the forenoon of nomination day for the pubic to make objection on the eligibility of the candidates. In the case where only one candidate has been nominated, he is declared the elected representative by the Returning Officer. However, should there be more than one candidate nominated, polling will be held on the scheduled date.
Candidates must use symbols of their political parties whilst independent candidates can choose any of the symbols provided for by the Commission and these will be printed in the ballot papers. Meanwhile, the interval between nomination day and polling day is normally utilized by candidates for their campaign and canvassing and for training the large number of party-workers and agent they have employed. During the election campaign, candidates are required to observe all laws and regulation to ensure that a healthy and peaceful atmosphere is maintained. All election campaign and canvassing must end at 12.00 midnight before polling day.
Polling day is the day beginning after 12 midnight on the day before, until the close of the poll. Voting normally is from 8.00 am and ends at 5.00 p.m. Voting is carried out at the various gazette polling station. Each polling station is presided over by at least one Presiding Officer who will exercise general control and supervision over all matters pertaining to the conduct of the poll at the station.
On the polling days, only the voters whose names are registered in the primary or supplementary electoral roll of the particular polling station are allowed to enter to cast their vote. Each voter is entitled to only one vote. However, in a general election where election to Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies are conducted simultaneously each voter is given a separate ballot paper for each. The method of voting is by secret ballot. A voter casts his vote for one candidate only by marking a cross against the name of candidate of his choice in the ballot paper. If two papers are to be marked in simultaneous election for Parliament as well the State Legislative Assemblies, each of the ballot papers is dropped into separate boxes marked “PARLIMEN” and “NEGERI”.
After that is counting process, counting is carried out either at each polling station or at a centralized place. The presence of candidate agent is to ensure that counting is done fairly and correctly. The result of the election for each constituency is obtained by adding all the result of the poll at the various polling stations together with the result of postal votes. The final coast is done at the official tally centre by the Returning Officer. The candidate receiving the highest number of votes will be declared the elected representative of that constituency by the Returning Officer.
However, recounting of votes is allowed once at the counting centre by request of any candidate or his election or counting agent based on several matter. Whilst, recounting at official tally centre is only allowed once upon request by a candidate in the event that the difference of votes obtained by two contesting candidates is 2 % or less of the total number of the votes cast, provided that the recount shall not take into account rejected ballot papers and spoilt ballot paper.