KOTA BHARU: Malaysians head to the polls on Wednesday (May 9) in what is likely to be the most hotly-contested elections in the country’s history.
The federal government declared Wednesday a public holiday to allow all Malaysians to fulfil their responsibilities as voters in the country’s 14th general election.
Many expressed concern that having the vote on a Wednesday, Malaysia’s first weekday poll in nearly two decades, would affect turnout at the ballot boxes.
Last Saturday (May 5), Malaysia’s Election Commission (EC) opened 586 polling centres for early voting nationwide.
The early voters comprised some 278,000 Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysian Armed Forces and Special Task Force personnel and their spouses. They form the bulk of the 300,000 people who were eligible for early voting, according to the EC.
On Wednesday, the remainder of the 14.9 million registered voters will decide the course of 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats.
Polling stations across the country, which are largely schools, will open between 8am and 5pm.
In a video published by the election commission, voters are reminded to ensure there is no mark of indelible ink on their left index fingers, to bring along official identification, to mark a clear X next to the name of the candidate, party or symbol of their choice and to drop their vote into the respective parliament and state assembly boxes.
Voters are reminded not to take ballot papers out of polling stations, wear items of clothing with party logos or loiter around the polling stations after casting their votes.
Both the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition are confident of winning the minimum 112 parliamentary seats to form a simple majority.
BN won 133 seats in the last general election, in 2013, despite losing the popular vote.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said BN can win by a wide margin, based on his walking the ground across the country and briefings from UMNO leaders in each of the locations since campaigning began on Apr 28.
Meanwhile PH leader Mahathir Mohamad has been buoyed by the large turnout at opposition rallies, and expects a “people’s tsunami” to beat the ruling government.
The emergence of former UMNO key members Daim Zainuddin and Rafidah Aziz campaigning for the opposition has been also touted as a potential game changer for PH in the polls.
A third main contender, the Parti Islamic Se-Malaysia (PAS), have candidates contesting in 158 parliamentary seats – and has set its sights on winning 40 seats.
PAS leaders believe this number will allow them to play the role of kingmaker, if the number of federal seats won by BN and PH are insufficient to form a simple majority.
As voters mark their choices, there will be many key factors that will weigh heavily on their minds, including the rising cost of living, the Goods and Services Tax, which was introduced in 2015, and corruption by key figures in government and a potentially fractious opposition coming into power.