The Star Online|Malaysia 13th General Election

The election process

THE general election machinery is set in motion as soon as Parliament is dissolved either automatically in five years after it’s first meeting or upon the Prime Minister advising the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to do so.

Since, the Dewan Rakyat’s first session after the 12th general election was on April 28, 2008, Parliament is set to automatically dissolve by April 28, 2013. And since under Article 55(4) of the Federal Constitution, polling must be held within 60 days dissolution, GE13 must take place by the June 2013. (See Constitutional posers for GE13, The Star, Aug 9, 2012)

Once Parliament is dissolved, the Election Commission must immediately start its election machinery. There are six steps in the election process, which must be completed in 60 days.

They are:
1. ISSUANCE of the Writ
2. NOMINATION of candidates
3. ELECTION campaign
5. COUNTING of votes
6. ANNOUNCEMENT of results

1. Issuance of the writ
Once parliament is dissolved, The EC under the Elections Act 1958 will issue a writ to each returning officer of the various constituencies to conduct the elections.

Simultaneously, a notice for the general election will be gazetted and the notice will be posted at convenient places for public viewing.

The notices will contain the date of nomination of candidates and the dates for both early voting and regular polling days.

2. Nomination
Candidates need to present their nominations papers to the returning officer on the nomination day between 9am to 10am.

The candidates are required to pay a deposit of RM10,000 to contest for a parliamentary seat and RM5,000 for a state seat. (Candidates will lose their deposits if they fail to garner at least ⅛ of the total number of votes obtained by all the candidates in the constituency).

The returning officers will check that the nomination forms are complete and that the candidates are eligible and are not disqualified for reasons of being an undischarged bankrupt, of unsound mind, or that he has relinquished his citizenship.

No more objections
In the previous elections, contesting candidates were given an hour to raise objections to the eligibility of a candidate after the nomination period closed at 10am. However for the 13th General Election, the objection period has been done away with. (See EC: No more objection period during nominations, The Star, Dec 20, 2011)

After 10am, the RO will announce the names of the eligible candidates who will contest the seat and the parties they represent. The EC now forbids any candidate from withdrawing from contesting once their nomination has been accepted by the RO.

Previously a candidate could decide to pull out from contesting within three days after nomination day.

3. Election campaign
The campaigning period begins as soon as the eligible candidates on nomination day are announced and it officially ends at midnight before polling day. For GE13, the minimum campaigning period has been set at 10 days.

How much can a candidate spend on his election campaign?
The Election Offences Act 1954 stipulates that a parliamentary candidate can spend up to RM200,000 while a state constituency candidate is allowed RM100,000 in total election campaign expenditure.

Monitoring the election campaign
The conduct of candidates during the campaign period will be monitored by a special taskforce set up by the Election Commission and consists of an official appointed by the EC, a member of the police force with at least the rank of Inspector, local district representatives and representatives of the candidates or parties contesting.

The taskforce will ensure that the candidates comply with campaigning rules by taking down any campaign material that does not comply with the law, stop any illegal ceramah with the help of police, and generally monitor activities within their respective enforcement districts.

4. Polling

A. Advance voting
For the first time in the General Elections, an advance polling date has been introduced for the police and armed forces. According to the EC as of July 2012, there were about 260,000 registered military and police personnel and their spouses on the registered rolls of voters. (re: Advance voting system set to start, The Star, July 8)

The advance polling date will be held three days before the regular polling date. The polling centres will be at the Armed Forces camps or police stations.

The process will be similar to the regular voting process and at the end of the polling day the ballot boxes will be locked away in secure locations such police stations until the regular polling day. The votes will counted together with the regular votes at end of the regular polling day.

B. Regular voters
Before polling centres are opened for voters at 8am, EC officials would have begun work preparing the polling booths. An area about 50 meters around polling centres will be cordoned off and only voters and EC officials will be allowed in. Appointed representatives for the candidates will also be allowed in to observe the proceedings.

The voting process begins at 8am. The EC official will first check a voter’s IC against the list of registered voters. The official will also check if the voter’s left hand index finger is clear of an markings of indelible ink to ensure that he has not voted before.

A second EC official will then ask the voter to place his hand on the ink pad and the official will mark the voter’s finger with indelible ink. The next official will then tick off the name of voter on the electoral list and the voter will then be given the ballot papers.

The voter will then be asked to proceed to the voting booth and mark the ballot, and place his votes in separate ballot boxes labelled for parliamentary and state seats. The whole process will be observed by election officials and agents of candidates and parties.

The polling centres close at 5pm.

Quick facts:
1. The clear ballot box was introduced in the 2008 GE to replace metal boxes to ensure transparency in the voting process.
2. The plan to use indelible ink was proposed in the 2008 GE but it was scrapped just four days before polling day.

5. Counting of votes
Once polling closes, the presiding officer will tally all the ballots. He will have to take note of the number of ballot papers that were given at the beginning of the voting day, how many ballot papers were given to voters, the number of spoilt ballots and the number of unused ballots. The numbers must tally.

Any ambiguous ballots with unclear markings will be set aside.

The officials will then go through the ambiguous votes to determine if they can be accepted. At the end of the counting, the presiding officer will record the number of votes for each of the candidates and the number of spoilt votes. The forms with the tally of the ballots recorded by the presiding officer will be brought to the vote tallying centre where the returning officer will announce the results for each polling station.

6. Announcement of results
The returning officer for each constituency will declare the candidate who secured a simple majority as the winner. The winner will then be confirmed as the elected representative of that constituency.