Malaysian General Election

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Malaysian law requires that a general election must be held at least once every five years. However, the Prime Minister can request the Yang Di Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament at any time before this five year period has expired. A general election should be held no later than 3 months after the dissolution of Parliament.

It is held to elect representatives to the state legislatures (Dewan Undangan Negeri) as well as the "Hall of the People" (Dewan Rakyat in Malay), or House of Representatives.

A Prime Minister is then appointed by Parliament and serves at the pleasure of the Yang Di Pertuan Agong. This usually means that the most important elected representative in the ruling party gets to be Prime Minister.

Over the years, the predominant winner of the general election has always been the Barisan Nasional (National Front in Malay; once known as the Alliance).


Nomination process

Nomination typically takes place on the last day since parties do not want to expose their slate of candidates too early. Nomination centres are set up in various locations by the Election Commission to allow candidates to register themselves. Typically any Malaysian citizen may register as a candidate as long as he is not disqualified from doing so. He or she does so by filing the appropriate forms and placing a monetary deposit.

This deposit was RM5000 to contest a parliamentary seat, or RM3000 to contest a state assembly seat. This amount was changed to RM 10,000 and RM 5,000 respectively in 2004. Additionally in 2004 it was required that each candidate provide a RM 5,000 deposit for cleaning up banners and posters after the election. This increase is seen by some as having led to the government winning a record number of seats without contest in 2004 (17 parliamentary seats were won without contest).

The deposit is used to pay for infringements of election laws and is returned after voting, as long as the candidate garners a certain percentage of the popular vote in the constituency.

As of the 2004 elections, candidates may have a lawyer present at these proceedings. Some candidates have been disqualified from previous elections as they lacked the competence to fill in the forms correctly.

In 2004 candidates were given 1 hour to fill out and return their nomination forms as opposed to 2 hours previously. This led to disqualification of certain candidates who were unaware of the change.

Election Day

On election day, registered voters may cast their ballot for their chosen candidate in a designated voting centre. These voting centres are typically schools or community centres which have been procured for that day. Typically, all activities in the school are suspended for that day. Holidays are also declared in states where election day does not fall on a weekend, i.e. Kelantan, where Sunday is not a public holiday. This is to allow maximum turnout. Technically, it is an offense not to vote, but this is not enforced.

Certain political parties will provide transport for voters to and from the voting centre. While campaigning is not allowed on election day, transportation is seen as something of a social service, especially since many people did not have a personal means of conveyance until the last decade or two, as of 2004.

No campaigning or advocacy for candidates is allowed within a voting centre. However, just outside the gate of most voting centres, there will be people plugging the various candidates. There is usually a mix of orators, transport providers and hired tough guys. The tough guys are probably there to ensure that party workers are not harassed or impeded by tough guys from the other parties.


In every voting centre (and there is more than one for each constituency) there can be "agents" present. Each candidate is allowed one agent per voting centre. Their job starts early and begins by inspecting that the metal ballot boxes have not been tampered with. They also ensure that the boxes are securely locked before voting begins. After locking the boxes are sealed by the election commission and each agent may place their own seal on the box.

They also ensure that the ballot papers given out to voters do not contain markings. In the past certain parties have marked the ballot papers for their own candidates. This way a vote for the other candidate will result in a spoilt vote which is discarded during counting. Also some ballot papers have been coated with waxy surfaces to prevent voting for certain candidates. The agents are there to ensure that these events do not occur.

The last task of the agent is to ensure that, on the close of voting, the ballot boxes are still secure and the seals are intact. This may not be at the polling centre and may instead occur at a designated counting centre. The boxes are opened once the agents are certain that the has been no tampering.

Voting process

There is usually a long line of people waiting to vote unless you go really early. You will have to go into the centre alone unless your companion is also voting at the same centre. Upon entering the voting room you will have to produce your identity card for the election official.

The official will look up his list and cancel out your name. Similarly, all agents will also cancel out your name on their lists. This is still done on paper but since the 2004 elections, the lists have been produced on CD for purchase. It will just be a matter of time before this is automated by the parties, as of 2004. The commission may take longer to incorporate such progress.

If a second person with the same name and IC (Identity Card) number comes in to vote then he too will be handed a ballot paper. However, these papers will never be counted as they have already been pre-marked. All such incidences usually result in police reports after the close of voting.


At the close of voting the election agents check the ballot boxes prior to opening and counting. They also monitor counting to ensure that the total ballots are the same as the number of votes cast. This extends to checking the number of "double votes". Every ballot paper has a serial number on it and they are given out sequentially. Every agent can check that the serial numbers match up.

After a count at the voting centre the boxes are transported to the counting centre for a second count. If all candidates agree to the count then it stands or else an immediate re-count is done at the counting centre.

Election Offences

There are a few offences under election law. Most of these pertain to acts which induce a voter to cast his ballot for a candidate. It is also an offence to use these actions to induce voters not to cast ballots at all. These offences extend to using third parties as agents to commit them.

Food and Drinks

It is an offence to provide food, drinks or refreshments with a view to induce voters to either vote for a particular candidate or not vote at all.


It is illegal to provide monetary rewards for voting for a certain candidate.


It is an offence to threaten a person to vote for a candidate or not to vote. In 2004 this was extended to include "spiritual threats". This was due to the PAS (Islamic Party of Malaysia) threatening citizens in less developed parts of the country with eternal damnation if they did not vote for the PAS and that a vote for them would be rewarded by God.

Physical obstruction

It is an offence to obstruct passage to and from a voting centre. Setting up a location for any candidate within 50 yards of the voting centre is an offence. Similarly, loitering in this zone is also an offence. Only voters are allowed in this zone on voting day.


It is technically an offence to provide transportation to a voting centre. However, this is not normally enforced as all parties do this to some degree. It is a further offence to use a vehicle that is normally rented out (such as a taxi or hired bus) to provide such transportation. The only exception to this is that it is allowed to provide for the crossing of rivers.

No passengers of any vehicle can be forced to alight within 50 yards of a candidate's booth on voting day.

Campaigning Funds

Each candidate is not allowed to spend more than RM 200,000 (parliamentary) or RM 100,000 (state) for campaigning under Section 19 of the Elections Act.

List of Malaysian General Elections

  1. Malaysian general election, 1959
  2. Malaysian general election, 1964
  3. Malaysian general election, 1969
  4. Malaysian general election, 1974
  5. Malaysian general election, 1978
  6. Malaysian general election, 1982
  7. Malaysian general election, 1986
  8. Malaysian general election, 1990
  9. Malaysian general election, 1995
  10. Malaysian general election, 1999
  11. Malaysian general election, 2004

See also: Politics of Malaysia


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