Being nomination day today, candidates will be vying for 26 parliamentary and 56 state seats in Johor. State election commission director Rokiah Hanum Ibrahim talks to NELSON BENJAMIN and MOHD FARHAAN SHAH on the Do’s and Don’ts during GE13.
Q: What is the criteria for a person to be a candidate in a general election?
A: There are a few requirements. The aspiring person must be a Malaysian, cannot be a bankrupt, must be of sound mind, must not have been found guilty by a court with a fine of not less than RM2,000 and jailed not less than a year. They can always refer to our candidates reference book which is published by the election commission and can be obtained at our office. We have had candidates disqualified in the past because they were found to be bankrupt.
Q: Are there fees for candidates to pay as deposits and what constitutes a forfeiture of this money?
A: Those going for a parliamentary seat will need to place a deposit of RM10,000 for the parliament seat and RM5,000 for a state seat. They also have to place an additional deposit for the use of their banners and campaign materials which is RM5,000 for a parliament seat and RM3,000 for a state seat. Their deposit for the parliament and state seat is forfeited if the candidate obtains less than 1/8 of the total number of votes in the constituency.
Q: Have there been a lot of people interested in becoming candidates in Johor?
A: So far we have sold over 429 forms for the 82 parliamentary and state seats. This is a big number but there is a possibility that people purchased extra forms just in case they make a mistake and they have a spare copy. The forms are sold at RM20 per copy and can be obtained at the election commission office.
Q: How many new voters do we have in Johor since the last general election?
A: Based on records, the number of voters in Johor for GE13 have increased by 293,191 to 1,605,311 compared with 1,312,120 in 2008 GE. Based on our records, the normal voters are 1,580,185 while there are 13,628 (army voters) , 11,175 (police voters) and 323 (overseas voters). We also have a good balance of male and female voters state wide. Our biggest voter constituencies are Gelang Patah with 106,726 voters, Pasir Gudang (101,041), Pulai (100,490) and Johor Baru (96,321).
Q: What could have caused the huge increase in the number of voters in GE13 compared with the previous election?
A: I believe that the political parties have been aggressively going around looking for new voters and registering them. Besides that people are also more aware and also walk into our offices or even the post offices to register as voters.
Q: What is the age ratio for all our voters in Johor?
A: Based on our records, at least 63,27% of the voters here are below 50 years old. We have at least 368,661 voters between 30 and 39 years old. As for our senior voters above 90, we have about 4,902 people, which makes up only 0.3% of the states total number of voters.
Q: What are the Johor election commission’s preparations for these GE13?
A: We are mobilising about 24,000 people, mostly teachers, as election workers statewide. We will also be having a total of 910 polling centres. This time we have hired three helicopters to be used to help out our operations around the islands off Mersing especially in Pulau Sibu, Pulai Tinggi and Pulau Pemanggil. We may also use the helicopter to reach the Orang Asli voters in the remote part of Kg Peta. In the previous election we used boats to reach the islands but this time we want to be prepared for any eventualities especially bad weather or choppy seas.
Q: What is your advise to voters in Johor. What are the do’s and don’ts?
A: I want the election process in Johor to run smoothly and I advise people not to come to the polling centres and ask for ballot papers with specific serial numbers. These serial numbers are not recorded by us as to which person gets which serial number or the voter’s choice will also not be known. I have been told that some people are worried about this and are expecting to come to the polling centres and choosing their own ballot papers. I also hope that voters will cooperate with the election officials and get their finger marked as if you refuse to use the ink, then you will not be eligible to vote. I also hope that people will stagger their arrival at the poling station to avoid congestion. I also hope that they do not entertain the political parties which try to canvas for votes near the polling centres (pondok panas) in the pretext of checking your voter registration as we have all these facilities at the poling centre. I also appeal to voters to check on where they are casting their votes by visiting our website www.spr.gov.my or hotlines 07-224 3516, 07-2261417, 07-2261420 or even SMS. Please do not assume that you may vote at the same school or centre as the previous GE, as we (EC) will have to move voters to a new poling centre within the constituency if there are too many voters registered at one centre. This is done to avoid congestion and long queues.
Q: Do you have an enforcement team on duty during the entire election period?
A: At the moment we have one team in each of the 26 parliaments and they are required to go around and check if there are any election offences committed by the parties or candidates. Usually the parties or candidates comply with our requests as we also rope in their representatives to be part of the team.
Q: In the last general election, Johor recorded a high number of spoilt votes with 28,723 rejected votes and 3,059 ballot papers not returned. Why was this so and what is your advice?
A: I do not think people accidentally spoilt their votes but more as a means of showing their displeasure for all the candidates standing there. In fact we noticed this in Gelang Patah in the last GE. Anyway it is a person’s choice what they intend to do with their vote. In fact we are quite lenient as besides a clear X mark for a candidate, we also allow those who tick or even mark it with a huge dot. But if you start scribbling words or profanities, then the vote will be rejected.