scmp.com | 05-Nov-2022 – Crowds of supporters in party colours turned out in their droves for nomination day on Saturday to support their chosen leaders
In a historic first, every single parliamentary seat will be contested by multiple candidates. But polls suggest no single coalition will win
Malaysia’s latest battle for electoral power began in earnest on Saturday, as nearly 1000 candidates threw their hats – and security deposits – into the ring for a shot at winning a place in the 222-seat parliament come the November 19 polling day for the country’s 15th general election.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved parliament in October following months of pressure from his Umno party to call an election as it bids to return to power. The Barisan Nasional coalition Umno leads was booted out in 2018 after more than six decades in control by voters angered by rising living costs and allegations of rampant corruption.
This election is likely to be the most hotly contested that the country has seen so far, with the Umno-led Barisan Nasional jockeying for position against two other coalitions: the Malay nationalist Perikatan Nasional and the multiracial Pakatan Harapan.
Only nine, or just 4 per cent, of the total seats up for grabs will see a straight fight, according to data from the Election Commission, all of which will be in mostly hard-to-reach rural constituencies in the states of Sarawak and Sabah on Malaysian Borneo.
On the flip side, the Klang Valley – where the nation’s wealth is concentrated and includes the capital city Kuala Lumpur – will host the most crowded contests.
A total of 10 candidates will vie for the urban seat of Batu, followed by nine contesting nearby Ampang. Three semiurban seats in the valley will see eight-way contests – Bangi, Kota Raja and Sepang.
Nomination day morning was as colourful as it was lively, with supporters dressed in party colours turning out in their droves to wave flags and banners as they cheered on their chosen leaders in the customary march to the nomination centre – the traditional signal that the electoral campaign is officially under way.
The process went without a hitch for each of the three biggest coalition’s top leaders, although police in Sabah had to fire tear gas to disperse supporters of a local party who attempted to storm the nomination centre in the rural district of Tenom, after their candidate was rejected due to a previous conviction, according to local media reports.
More than 21 million people are registered to vote in this year’s election, up by 6 million from the previous national polls after parliament approved constitutional amendments that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 and enabled automatic voter registration.
But while Umno has pushed for a general election this year to capitalise on its resounding victories in two state polls in recent months, the results of the national contest are too close to call, according to a survey by independent pollster the Merdeka Center.
The survey found more of the electorate intending to vote this time round, as well as rising interest in the election – although this varied between age groups. Some 80 per cent of respondents aged 50 and older said they were likely to cast their ballots this year, followed by 74 per cent of those aged between 31 and 50, and 68 per cent of those aged 30 and below.
Respondents were also deeply split over who to give their vote, with 26 per cent of the 1,209 people surveyed saying they backed the opposition Pakatan Harapan as of October 28, followed by 24 per cent who supported Umno’s Barisan Nasional and another 13 per cent choosing the upstart Perikatan Nasional.
And even if these trends hold until polling day, the race is still wide open as a significant number of respondents – 31 per cent – remain undecided.
The way that the vote is split among the three major coalitions, as well as a projected dip in support for Barisan Nasional among the majority Malay constituency, indicates that no single coalition will secure a large enough plurality to form a government on their own, according to Merdeka Center.
“Instead, there is a rising possibility that at least three or more parties/coalitions are needed to cooperate to form a government with a simple majority,” it said of the survey findings.
Political parties and their candidates now have from Saturday afternoon until the end of play on November 18 to win over voters, after which all campaigning must cease as the country heads to the polls to cast their ballots.