PETALING JAYA: Party flags decorating the streets, giants billboards with portraits of MPs or announcements of forums and fundraising dinners – the 13th Parliament has yet to be dissolved but campaigning for the 14th general election already appears to be in full swing.
Take a drive around town, whether in Kota Baru or Johor Baru, and you will see blue flags bearing the weighing scale symbol, white flags with the rocket symbol, or green flags with a full moon.
Tourists to Malaysia might think the country is celebrating, when in fact the tension is rising in the air as election campaigning grows more aggressive.
Politicians from both sides of the divide are putting up more of their campaign materials, even as the date for GE14 remains a mystery.
Motorists heading into Kuala Lumpur cannot miss the numerous giant billboards featuring the Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, while the entrance of Petaling Street now bears a banner of Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon welcoming shoppers to the area.
Some KL voters said they have received a blue letter from Tengku Adnan confirming their voter registration and wishing that he has their vote.
In Penang, a poster war has started with Barisan Nasional firing the first salvo.
Penang Barisan chairman Teng Chang Yeow’s team plastered some 600 posters all over the state criticising Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and stating “Boasting Pakatan Harapan; 10 years; 51 empty promises”.
The party was fined by the local authorities for putting up these political posters before the official campaign period.
PAS and Pakatan Harapan are keeping up with the flag race, with DAP, PKR, Pribumi and Amanah flags appearing across the country.
The most noteworthy Pakatan billboard is one at the NKVE highway counting down towards the June release from prison of the party’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Banners bearing the portraits of its state assemblymen and parliamentary leaders have also cropped up in housing areas.
It is becoming a busier season for journalists as well, as they run from one meet-and-greet with an MP to another.
Political parties have been touring the nation with back-to-back ceramah, fundraising dinners, and forums, many of which are attended by the parties’ big guns.
No matter the political party, these events often see huge turnouts, with voters curious to hear what their potential MPs have to say.
While voters may be enjoying the carnival atmosphere and goodies handed out by politicians, local councils are not happy.
On March 25, the Kelantan state government warned political parties to take down their flags along major roads or pay the local authorities to do it.
Tenaga Nasional Bhd has advised political parties against putting up party flags and posters on TNB posts, cables, power supply boxes, substations or other electrical installations as this could pose the risk of electrocution.
According to Election Commission rules, political party flags can only be put up from nomination day onwards.
However, the EC said it cannot act against parties which have begun their campaigning early as it does not have the authority to act before the dissolution of Parliament.
“The EC can only act during the official election campaign period as stipulated under the Election Offences Act 1954,” its chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah said in a March 22 statement, adding that the onus is on the local authorities.
The EC rules stipulate that the official election campaign period starts on nomination day and ends at midnight before polling day but from the looks of it, the election campaigning has already begun.
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