Yesterday, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri announced that he had received approval from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament immediately. This means that the 15th General Election (GE15) has officially begun.
While the nominations and voting dates have yet to be confirmed, the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) believes that the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) should give a three-week campaign period for each party. Below are the suggestions (and the advantages) listed by KLSCAH for extending the campaign period to 21 days so that all political parties can have more time to choose the best candidates and prepare for GE15. This will also allow both local and overseas voters can exercise their right to vote and fulfil their civic duty.
1. Fine-tune the overseas voting process: Overseas voters will have more time to mail their ballots back to Malaysia with the extension of the campaign period to 21 days. They’ll avoid losing their right to vote due to delays in ballot dispatching. In addition, the Election Commission should consider the possibility of allowing eligible overseas voters to digitally download their ballots from the official EC website. This is to simplify the application procedure for overseas postal votes, and to save unnecessary election expenses incurred in the printing of postal ballots.
2. Strict monitoring of the surge in voters: With the full implementation of “Undi 18” and automatic voter registration, the number of eligible voters aged 18 and above will reach more than 5.8 million. With the number of voters increasing from the recorded 15.8 million to 21.1 million, the government will face a significant surge in voters. According to statistics, the number of new voters are expected to increase by an average of 10,000 to 50,000 voters (i.e. across the 222 parliament seats in more than 190 constituencies nationwide). Therefore, extending the campaigning period will help the Election Commission prepare for the voter turnout surge. At the same time, sufficient on-duty staff and police presence could ensure the election is conducted more efficiently.
3. Adopt dedicated polling stations for outstation voters: An estimated number of 500,000 Sabahan and Sarawakian citizens are working or studying in West Malaysia. In our country, there are countless voters that look for jobs outside of their hometowns. In addition to the existing mail-in ballots, the Election Commission must also set up special polling centres in each constituency, to process the ballots of outstation citizens right there and then. However, it needs to ensure that each centre divides enough outstation polling stations according to different constituencies. These dedicated polling stations will solve problems of inconsistencies of past national and state elections. That way, even if the upcoming elections held at different dates, outstation voters can cast their votes at their nearest polling station. Outstation voters can finally be able to vote for their beloved hometown’s representative, minus the hassle to “balik kampung” out of their own pockets.
The KLSCAH believes that the Election Committee must adopt more convenient and timely voting processes to help voters – at home and overseas – to exercise their right to vote. More importantly, the people should also fulfil their obligations as citizens of a democratic country to vote actively. The unforgiving political terrain has caused countless disappointments and political apathy in our citizens. On the flip side, we can benefit each other by making use of each and every one of our precious votes, to determine the future of Malaysia and its development of political democratisation.
The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor
Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)