Feb 20, 2008

Malaysia 12th General Election : Election Process in Malaysia

Malaysia 12th General Election : Election Process in Malaysia.

Malaysia will hold its 12th general election on March 8 2008 and nomination day on 24 February 2008. Malaysia practises parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy and His Royal Highness is the paramount ruler. The Federal Constitution was legislated with the setting up of conditions for this system to exist.

One of the conditions of parliamentary democracy is the separation of the administrative power into three parts, which are legislative, judiciary, and administrative or executive. A general election is held every five years to elect members of the Dewan Rakyat. Parties with the most votes can form a government to rule the country.

The Federal Parliament is the highest judiciary body in Malaysia. Unless dissolved, the Parliament will proceed for five years from the date of the first proceeding session conducted after a general election.

At the end of the five-year period, the Parliament is automatically dissolved, and within 60 days from the date of its dissolvement, a general election to elect representatives for the Dewan Rakyat has to be held, and the Parliament calls for a meeting at a date not later than 120 days from the date of dissolvement.


Since 1957, Malaysia has retained a multi-party political system whereby the political party which secures the majority of the Parliamentary seats (House of Representatives) or the State Legislative Assembly seats can form the Federal or State Government as the case may be. The system used in Malaysia is based on the First-Past-The-Post System. This implies that the candidate who secures a simple majority will be declared the winner in that constituency.


To facilitate the implementation of elections a number of laws and regulations have been enacted to ensure the election procedure is strictly followed. The laws and regulations formulated are:

1. Federal Constitution
2. States Constitution
3. Election Act, 1958 (Act 19)
4. Election Offences Act, 1954 (Act 5)
5. Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations, 1981
6. Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations, 2002
7. Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003

These laws and regulations are directly involved with the election process. However other relevant laws which are not directly involved in the election process but have a role in its smooth conduct include the Police Act 1962; Sedition Act 1970; Official Secrets Act 1972; and the Internal Security Act 1960.


The important elements for the conduct of elections are :
- Constituency
- Elector
- Candidate
- Election Process


In the election system practised by Malaysia, a candidate is elected to represent the residents of that constituency at Parliament (Federal Election) or the State Legislative Assembly (State Election). To date there are 222 House of Representatives seats (Parliament) and 576 State Legislative Seats.


The Election Commission, as part of its main function, is responsible for reviewing the boundaries of Parliamentary and State Constituencies. As provided for under the Federal Constitution, the Election Commission is to undertake this review at intervals of not less than 8 years.


An important element in the election system is that the elector has to register with the Election Commission before he can vote in an election for the House of Representatives or the State Legislative Assembly.

In Malaysia, a person is entitled to register if he :

i) is a Malaysian Citizen;
ii) is not less than 21 years of age on the qualifying date;
iii) is resident in any election constituency in Malaysia; and
iv) is not disqualified.


An elector will be disqualified if he :

i) on the qualifying date is detained as a person of unsound mind or is serving a sentence of imprisonment; or
ii) before the qualifying date he has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to death or imprisonment for a term exceeding 12 months and is still liable on the qualifying date; or
iii) found guilty under the Election Offences Act, 1954; or
iv) has acquired a foreign citizenship.


The revision of electoral roll is carried out throughout the year as required by law. You can register at the Election Commission’s Headquarters, State Election Offices, Post Offices or through the Commission’s mobile teams. The revised electoral rolls are prepared every 3 months and they are displayed for 7 days for claims and objections. After considering the claims and objections through public enquiry, the electoral rolls for that year will be confirmed by the Commission within a month. During revision of the main roll, the names of deceased electors and those that have been disqualified under the law will be expunged from the roll.


In the Malaysian system of elections, a candidate contesting can either represent a party or stand as an independent candidate.

He is qualified to be a candidate in any election if he fulfills the following:

i) he is a Malaysian citizen and a resident of the country;
ii) he must not be less than 21 years of age on nomination day; and
iii) he must be a resident of the State if contesting a state seat.

A candidate will be disqualified if he :

i) has been found or declared to be of unsound mind; or
ii) found to be an undischarged bankrupt; or
iii) holding an "office of profit"; or
iv) failed to lodge any return of election expenses; or
v) has been convicted of an offence by a court of law in Malaysia and sentenced to imprisonment for a term not less than 1 year or to a fine of not less than RM2000 and has not received a free pardon; or
vi) has obtained a foreign citizenship.


Elections to the House of Reprensentatives and the State Legislative Assembly are, as stipulated by law, held once in 5 years unless dissolved sooner . The general election will be held within a period of 60 days from the date of dissolution.
By-elections also have to be held within the period of 60 days from the date of vacancy, caused by either death, resignation or disqualification of a member of the House of Representatives or the State Legislative Assembly. In this aspect, the date of vacancy will be established by the Commission.


The general election or a by-election begins with the issuance of an election writ by the Election Commission to the Returning Officer. At the same time a notice will be gazetted stipulating the dates of nomination and polling.


Nomination day refers to the day fixed by the Election Commission for candidates to submit their nomination papers, to contest in the election, to the Returning Officers. The nomination papers can be submitted by the candidate, the proposer and seconder or by anyone of them. The papers must be submitted between the time of 9.00 am and 10.00 am on nomination day.
Between 10.00 am and 11.00 am, the nomination papers will be displayed for scrutiny and objection. In the case where only one candidate is nominated the Returning Officer will declare him as elected without contest.


A deposit of RM 10,000 for a parliamentary seat and RM 5,000 for a state seat has to be submitted to the Returning Officer before nomination day or during the filing of nomination papers. The deposit will be forfeited if the candidate fails to secure 1/8 of the total number of votes polled by all the candidates in the constituency.


A candidate representing a political party can use the party's symbol provided he obtains permission in writing from the head of the party. Independent candidates may choose any of the symbols which have been provided by the Election Commission and these will be printed in the ballot papers.


Then Election Commission has formulated special regulations for campaigns as stipulated under the Election Offences Act (Amendment) 2002. However, a campaign can only begin after completion of the nomination process and should end at 12.00 midnight before polling day. To ensure the smooth conduct of elections, the Commission has provisions under subsection 3(5) of the Elections Act 1958 and section 27A of the Election Offences Act 1954 to appoint and Enforcement Officer and established one or more Enforcement Units in each Parliamentary constituency if deem necessary. This Unit will compromise the Enforcement Officer from the Election Commission, a representative from District Police Office, a representative from Local Government Authority and a representative from each party/candidate contesting.

The Enforcement Officer is responsible to the Returning Officer and the duties of his Unit cover overseeing campaign materials, election speeches and public rallies, to ensure that the provisions of Elections Laws and Regulations are not breached. The Commission also sets up various committees at Federal/State/constituency levels to brief political parties, candidates, or their agents and workers on the Commission's laws and regulations.

Normally, election campaigns take the form of :

- Distribution of pamphlets, handbills, letters
- Posters
- Closed-door talks and meetings as well as public rallies
- House to house canvassing
- Political parties are allowed to unveil and explain their party manifesto. They can also use the electronic media. However the candidates have to pay a deposit of RM5,000 for parliamentary elections and RM3,000 for state elections. This deposit will be returned if the candidates remove all posters, banners etc within 14 days after the elections.

During the campaign period the police will, from time to time, issue separate quidelines to candidates contesting for the peaceful conduct of the elections. All forms of campaigns must end by 12.00 midnight the day before polling day.


Polling day refers to the day electors cast their vote. Officially, this day starts after 12.00 midnight and ends with the announcement of the results. However, polling time is fixed from 8.00 am to 5.30 pm for Peninsular Malaysia and from 7.30 am to 5.00 pm for Sabah and Sarawak. For remote areas, mobile teams are utilized to facilitate polling. In addition, the polling times may differ in different districts. The Election Commission normally issues a general notice informing the public of important matters concerning the election.

They include :

a) date of polling
b) location of polling stations
c) time of polling at all the polling stations
d) location of counting and tally centres

Voting is carried out in gazetted polling stations. Each station will have a Presiding Officer who will supervise the whole process of voting. He will be assisted by voting and counting clerks.


The present law does not allow candidate to open or maintain an election booth at every polling centre within his constituency. However the party is allowed to establish an operation room as long as it is not closer than 50 meters from the polling centre. To facilitate voting the Election Commission malaysia will set up its election booth at all the pooling centres These booths are to assist the electors to check their electoral roll serial number and the polling stream so as to ensure orderly polling.


Only electors whose names appear in the principal electoral roll or the complementary electoral rolls of a particular polling station are allowed to enter to cast their vote. The electors Identity Card, issued by the National Registration Department, forms the basis of identification to be presented at all the pooling stations. No person can vote in more than one constituency. To ensure order and secrecy of the vote only the following officers are allowed to enter the polling station:

a) members and officers of the Election Commission;
b) the presiding officer and his election staff;
c) candidates and their election agents;
d) candidate’s polling / counting agents; and
e) anyone who has obtained the approval of the Election Commission.


Voting is by secret ballot. An elector will cast his vote for one candidate only by marking the ballot paper with a sign "X" against the name of the candidate of his choice. After marking the ballot paper the voter will fold it along the folds appearing on the ballot paper and insert it in the ballot box provided. If two papers are marked for simultaneous elections (House of Representatives and State Legislative Assembly) each of the ballot papers will have to be marked, folded and inserted in separate boxes marked "PARLIMEN" and "NEGERI"


The postal votes are mailed, as early as possible, to electors who are entitled to vote by the postal vote method. Postal voters normally comprise personnel from the armed forces, Police Field Force, election officials on duty, government officers serving overseas, students studying overseas, and spouses.Postal votes must reach the Returning Officer by 5.00 pm on polling day. Proper procedures have been formulated to ensure the secrecy of the vote.


The law permits a candidate to appoint a polling agent for the purpose of safeguarding his interest at every polling station at any one time. The role of the agent is to ensure that the voting is conducted in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations.


Counting of votes is carried out by the Presiding Officer at the pollling station or at a specified central counting place. Postal votes for each constituency are counted by the Returning Officer at the specified place.

During the counting of votes only authorised persons are allowed to enter. They are :

i) members and officers of the Election Commission;
ii) officers appointed by the Election Commission;
iii) counting clerks; and
iv) candidates, their election agents and their counting agents.

The presence of the candidates' agents is to ensure that the counting is carried out in accordance with the proper process as provided for by the relevant laws and regulations and to ensure that the counting is correct, fair and transparent.


After the completion of counting of votes at the various polling stations and the central counting centre a statement of the results of the poll will be forwarded to the Returning Officer at the tally centre. The Returning officer will add all the votes, inclusive of postal votes, to determine the winner. The Returning Officer for the constituency will declare the candidate, who secures a simple majority, as the elected representative of that constituency.


The results of the election can be challenged in court. A petition can be lodged on the following grounds:
i) bribery, intimidation or any misconduct that may have affected the result of the election;
ii) non-compliance with Election Laws and Regulations;
iii) corrupt or illegal practice committed by the candidate or any of his agents;
iv) the candidate or his agent found to be disqualified for the election.
The election petition may be presented to the High Court Judge within 21 days after publication of the results in the Gazette. If the Election Judge, after conducting a trial over an election petition, decides the election to be void, the Election Commission will give notice of a fresh election for the constituency concerned.


A candidate is entitled to incur expenses in the conduct of the election but not in excess of :

a) RM200,000 for House of Representatives
b) RM100,000 for State Legislative Assembly

The report on the return of election expenses should be forwarded to the State Election Officer within a period of 31 days after the date of publication of the election results in the Gazette. Failure to submit the statement of the account of elections expenses or if he fails to submit within the prescribed time he will be guilty of an illegal practice as stipulated under the Election Offences Act, 1954.


In the election process an important aspect is the storage of the ballot papers and other relevant documents. These documents are to be placed in a special box or boxes and securely sealed in the presence of the agents of the candidates.
These boxes are to be kept for a period of 6 months in the safe custody of the Returning Officer. The State Elections Officer however will store the marked electoral rolls and the counterfoils of the ballot papers. This is to ensure the secrecy of the vote. The boxes are only to be opened, in cases of petition, under the order of a High Court Judge.

After the period of 6 months the Returning Officer, on obtaining permission from the Election Commission, will destroy the ballot papers and documents. The Returning Officer will submit to the State Elections Officer the certificate of disposal.


The process of elections in Malaysia is considered good in view of the enactment of various laws and regulations which ensure free and fair elections as well as transparency of the process. In addition the election process ensures a speedy declaration of the election results.

Source : Election Commission Of Malaysia

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