Malaysians will cast their votes on May 9 in the country’s 14th General Election, the Election Commission announced on Tuesday (April 10), according to The Star.
The deadline for nominations will be April 28 and early voting will take place on May 5, giving political parties just 11 days to campaign, four days less than the previous election.
According to The Star, EC chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah said that a total of 14,940,627 Malaysians are eligible to vote, up from 13,268,002 in 2013.
The election is expected to be a tight race between the ruling BN coalition under current Prime Minister Najib Razak and opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.
The ruling coalition has experienced a decline in its popularity in the past two elections, losing its two-thirds majority in 2008 and the popular vote in 2013. The 2015 scandal involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a sovereign wealth fund set up by Najib, has also threatened the prime minister’s reputation.
The announcement that Polling Day will fall on a Wednesday sparked concerns about voter turnout.
Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 pointed out that the weekday poll date will make it difficult for Malaysians return home for voting, especially those who have to make the trip from peninsular Malaysia to Sabah or Sarawak or vice versa, The Star reported.
Similar concerns were raised by opposition politicians.
State DAP chief Liew Chin Tong said that by making it difficult for urban voters, Barisan Nasional assumed that the rural and semi-rural voters would continue to back it, The Star reported.
Opposition leader Mahathir said that the polling date would make it especially difficult for those working abroad to cast their votes.
“We have about 500,000 Malaysians working in Singapore. They should be voting but now they are deprived of their right,” he told a press conference, according to The Star.
The Prime Minister’s Office announced yesterday that May 9 will be a public holiday.