A global pandemic. A declining ringgit. A surge in inflation. An increase in unemployment. A rise in the cost of living.
These are just a handful of the issues that have plagued our nation in the wake of the political turmoil instigated by political in-fighting and fickle politicians. Since the 14th General Election in 2018, two successive coalition governments – Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN)– have collapsed and two Prime Ministers – Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin – have tendered their resignations. The political crisis reached its climax at the height of the pandemic when a State of Emergency was declared, suspending the parliament and all elections until August 2021. Immediately after the cessation of the State of Emergency, Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob, the vice president of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) was put in the hot seat.
Although the cries of ‘backdoor government’ and ‘this is not the government we voted for’ seem to have dwindled into whispers, an air of uncertainty still shrouds the nation. This sentiment was echoed by the incumbent Prime Minister when he announced the dissolution of Parliament on the 10th of October, setting the stage for a premature 15th General Election on the 19th of November. The announcement received mixed reactions from the public; some had already anticipated it due to the political turmoil brewing beneath the surface while some were surprised as the government had only just presented next year’s federal budget. Although the rule is that elections must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of parliament, concerns regarding the impending monsoon season hastened the election process. The dissolution of parliament was followed by the dissolution of the state assemblies of Barisan Nasional (BN) led states, namely Pahang, Perlis, and Perak, where state elections will be held concurrently with parliamentary elections on the polling date.
“With this announcement, the mandate will be returned to the people. The people’s mandate is a answer to the country’s political stability and to create a strong, stable, and respectable government after GE15. The dissolution was carried out in order to silent voices that have been questioning the legitimacy of the government that it is a backdoor government or the government that came through the roof,” Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, 9th Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The 15th General Election will see an additional 6.23 million new voters due to the Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) and Undi18 initiatives, bringing the total number of voters to a whopping 21.17 million! Undi18 is a new law that was enforced in December 2021 which allows the previously excluded demographic of 18 to 21-year-old Malaysians to cast their votes. Youth participation in Malaysian politics was often overlooked due to assumptions that they were ‘not ready’ or ‘not mature enough’. However, the youth of Malaysia happens to be one of the most politically aware demographics in the nation (a halo effect of social media), with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad asserting that Undi18 was ‘needed to give them the opportunity, space, and voice to design the country’s democracy through elections’.
Thus, it is imperative that the youth of Malaysia make their voices heard and cast a vote this month to make a tangible difference in the nation’s jagged political landscape. But, how do you make sense of all the confusing terms and complicated procedures? Fret not, as Echo’s guide to GE15 will help you become an informed voter!
One point of confusion for most people is not knowing who they’re voting for. Generally, Malaysian elections work on a first-past-the-post system, meaning the representative that wins the most votes in their respective constituency is elected and that representative is then aligned with a particular political group or coalition, which represents one seat in parliament for that coalition. The coalition with more than 111 elected seats in Parliament is the winning coalition. For example, during GE14 the Pakatan Harapan coalition defeated Barisan Nasional through a seat majority of 113 out of 222 seats in parliament, a two seat majority. Coalitions are an alliance of different political parties that share a common agenda. So, many of you may be wondering, what coalitions are there in Malaysia?
- Barisan Nasional (BN)
BN (formerly known as the Alliance Party) is the oldest coalition in Malaysia and is made up of:
- UMNO (United Malays National Organisation)
- MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association)
- MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress)
- PBRS (United Sabah People’s Party)
Its ideologies represent the protection of ethnic interests, although all 3 dominant parties are ethnically oriented, UMNO is the dominant party within the Coalition, which leads to a bias in the protection of Malay ethnic interest. The chairman of BN is Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and the party is considered centre-right.
- Pakatan Harapan (PH)
PH is the largest opposition coalition in Parliament and consists of:
- DAP (Democratic Action Party)
- PKR (People’s Justice Party)
- AMANAH (National Trust Party)
- UPKO (United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation)
- Others (MUDA, PSM)
Its ideologies represent socio-political reforms, anti-corruption, and multiculturalism. Unlike BN, neither of the 3 major parties within the coalition project dominance, so it cannot be said that one party, in particular, represents the coalition, unlike BN. Its chairman is Dato’ Seri Haji Anwar Ibrahim, and the party is considered centre-left.
- Perikatan Nasional (PN)
As the new kid on the block, PN was formed in the wake of the 2020 Malaysian Political Crisis (Sheraton Move) and consists of:
- BERSATU (Malaysian United Indigenous Party)
- PAS (Malaysian Islamic Party)
- GERAKAN (Malaysian People’s Movement Party)
- STAR (Homeland Solidarity Party)
- SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party)
PN’s ideologies represent much of the same that BN stands for, except it can be considered more Malay-biased in comparison with BN, as it comprises the 2 largest Malay political groups with PAS being the largest Islamist political party and BERSATU being the second largest Malay nationalist party. Therefore, they prioritise the protection of Malay ethnic interest and also foster anti-corruption. The chairman is former Prime Minister Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Muhyiddin Yassin, and the party is considered right-wing.
- Parti Gabungan Sarawak (GPS)
GPS was formed in 2018 by 4 former BN component parties operating in Sarawak following their defeat in GE14. It comprises of:
- PBB (United Bumiputera Heritage Party)
- PRS (Sarawak People’s Party)
- PDP (Progressive Democratic Party)
- SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party)
Its ideologies represent nativism and Sarawakian nationalism. Its chairman is Tan Sri Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari, the party is considered centre-right.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the electoral system of Malaysia. Here are some common FAQs about it.
- What is a constituency?
- A constituency is a specified area where a group of voters elects a representative to a legislative body (Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Undangan Negeri).
- What are the different types of elections held in Malaysia?
- There are 2 different types, Federal and State Level
- Federal Level – every coalition contests for 222 seats within the Parliament (Dewan Rakyat), the coalition with a more than 111 seat majority wins the election.
- State Level – 505 seats are contested in Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN)
- What is the Parliament in Malaysia?
- Parliament in Malaysia consists of 2 different legislative bodies, Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat.
- Dewan Negara is the upper house of the parliament of Malaysia and its function is to review the legislations passed by the lower house (Dewan Rakyat). It is comprised of 70 senators, 26 of which are elected by state legislative assemblies, with 2 for each state. The remaining 44 are appointed by Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
- Dewan Rakyat is the lower house of the Parliament of Malaysia which passes, amends, and repeals laws. It consists of 222 Members of Parliament (MPs) which are elected through the first-past-the-post voting system with one member from each federal constituency.
- Who am I voting for?
- You will be voting for an MP in your constituency (refer to the step-by-step guide to determine your constituency) to represent your constituency in Dewan Rakyat.
- Please note: Not every party will be contesting in your constituency, so you might not be able to vote for the party you prefer, but you will still be able to vote for its allies (for example, if you want to vote for DAP but they aren’t contesting in your constituency, you can still vote for PKR since they’re both PH parties) unless you would like to vote for GPS which only contests in Sarawakian constituencies.
- What are state-level elections?
- Usually, at the time of every federal election, state legislative assembly elections will be held concurrently to appoint the state assemblyperson for that particular state. However, due to the unique circumstances of this election, only Pahang, Perak, Perlis, and Bugaya, Sabah are holding their state elections; meaning that any other states do not have to engage in state elections at this time.
- How do you know who to vote for?
- Some people may just be following who their parents vote for, but for those who are curious and want to be more involved. Watch this link up next:
- Check your registration status on the MySPR Portal
- Go to https://mysprsemak.spr.gov.my/
- Select ‘Semakan Daftar Pemilih’
- Enter your IC number and complete the CAPTCHA before clicking ‘Semak’
- Personal information such as your full name, IC number, birthday, and gender as well as registration details such as your locality, voting county, DUN, Parliament, and state will be displayed
- Alternatively, you may opt to use the MySPR app which is available on both the App Store and Google Play Store, or call the SPR hotline at 03-8892 7018
- Ensure that all your particulars are correct. If yes, you may proceed to Step 3. If not, move on to Step 2.
- Change your current voting location or electoral division (if applicable only)
- Create an SPR account at https://myspr.spr.gov.my/login
- You will be required to key in your personal particulars, set a security question, upload a picture of your IC with a selfie and complete the CAPTCHA
- Once you are logged in, you can update your address by filling up Form A
- Alternatively, you may visit your nearest post office or Election Commission branch to update your address
- Keep up with the latest updates and announcements
- During the Nomination on the 5th of November, take note of the candidates who will be contesting the Parliamentary seat in your area and if you reside in Pahang, Perlis, or Perak, take note of your state assemblyman nominees
- You can click on ‘Semakan Calon Pilihan Raya’ on the MySPR portal to check which candidates will be running in your area.
- You may also visit http://www.mp-profiling.info/ – a database run by an NGO that contains relevant information on each MP -to learn more about the visions and values of each politician
- Read (or watch) the news to follow the developments during the 14-day campaign period, such as party manifestos and announcements by the Election Commission
- Use your voice to influence others
- You can share the latest news or advocate for the party you support on social media to encourage your friends to actively participate in GE15 too.
- Don’t forget to bring your IC
- The Election Commission officer will need your IC to verify your details. You may use your passport or driving license if your IC is missing
- Dress appropriately
- Clothes or accessories sporting party logos are strictly prohibited and you could be imprisoned for a year, fined RM 5000 or both
- You should also avoid wearing revealing clothing such as tank tops, shorts, and skirts as voters have been barred from entering the premises for wearing ‘indecent’ clothing
- Ensure that your nails aren’t painted, especially your left index finger
- At the polling station, your left index finger will be dipped in indelible ink– a special ink that cannot be rinsed off to ensure that you do not vote more than once and to prevent identity theft, thereby ensuring the fairness of the election process. If your left index fingernail is painted, the Election Commission Officer will have difficulty applying the ink on your nail and you won’t be able to vote
- Arrive at your voting station early
- Although voting stations in West Malaysia will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. while those in East Malaysia will be open from 7.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., it is better to reach the venue as early as possible so that you can avoid long queues
- Don’t use your phone in the voting station and ensure that it is on silent
- Check your ballot paper before you vote
- Upon receiving the ballot paper, ensure that there are no existing markings on it and that it has a serial number, official stamp, and trademark. If these conditions are not fulfilled, ask the officer on duty to replace your ballot paper with a fresh one
- Mark an X on the column next to the candidate you would like to vote for
- Place the ballot paper into the box provided
- Do not loiter outside the voting station once you’ve cast your vote
- It may be assumed that you are attempting to re-enter the building to vote again and you could be jailed for 1 year, fined up to RM 5000, or both
- Votes will be counted as soon as the set time frame has elapsed and the results will start pouring in as early as 8 p.m. on the same night.
- Keep your eyes affixed to your devices as an official announcement could be made at midnight if everything goes off without a hitch
How do Sunway Students feel about GE15?
- Will you be voting?
- Why do you think it’s important to vote?
- So you actually have a say in your future, and you actually have a reason to complain about the government if the party you chose lost. It is also your responsibility to exercise your civic duty as a citizen of Malaysia.
The spark was lit by two Malaysian students, Qyira Yusri and Tharma Pillai way back in 2016 when they realised the lack of political discourse among Malaysian youth and fought tirelessly for their right to vote. It is up to us to carry the torch and keep the flame burning by shuffling our feet towards polling stations across the nation to cast our votes. Although a single ballot paper may seem like nothing but ink and paper to the naked eye, 21.17 million ballot papers have the power to make -or break- our nation. So, don’t stay silent and fight for a brighter future by voting for the right candidate(s) on the 19th of November!
Key issues as Malaysia prepares to vote in GE15 | The Edge Markets
The long and winding road to GE15 (or how Malaysia got three PMs in a single term)
| Malay MailGE15 Malaysia: Everything you need to know as a voter
Malaysia’s election process explained | Malay Mail
GE15 Malaysia: Everything you need to know as a voter
First time voter? Check out our GE15 guide | Kini News Lab
Malaysia’s Political Polarization: Race, Religion, and Reform
Written By: Ethan and Priyanka
Edited By: Poorani