IT’S going to be a protracted process. In fact, the 14-day campaign period is among the longest in the nation’s electoral history.
Predictably, many Malaysians were hoping for an 11-day runup, and the most popular date for polling was Nov 12. The date would also avoid coinciding with the wet season predicted to arrive by the middle of November.
So one wonders about the factors deliberated on by the Election Commission (EC) before deciding on Nov 19 as the polling day.
The longer the campaign stretches, the more it costs the candidates, workers, the EC officials and the media, too. The 15th General Election (GE15) will set taxpayers back RM1bil, and that doesn’t even include spending by the respective political parties and other stakeholders.
With most states opting to dissolve their state assemblies only when their terms end in July 2023, more expense will be incurred for another round of polling then.
The endless politicking in our country has become the bane of most Malaysians’ existence, so the last thing we want is another round of elections within a calendar year.
The same narratives will likely be rolled out, along with the same personalities leading the campaigns. So how many new sales pitches will we hear at state levels?
The Penang DAP got it right when it said that the sentiments of Penangites was to have the state polls concurrently, but unfortunately, the national level Pakatan Harapan leadership shot it down.
DAP national legal bureau chief Ramkarpal Singh correctly said Pakatan shouldn’t burden the people by holding separate parliamentary and state elections. His first-hand knowledge of word on the street is that the people aren’t keen on separate elections.
Describing GE15 as a forced election, he said there is nothing unprincipled in holding concurrent elections.
Unfortunately, national Pakatan leaders view it differently from Penang leaders.
There’s the impression that these state governments under Pakatan and PAS merely want to cling on to being in government.
In fact, the Opposition had previously pushed for an early election with the argument that the present Federal Government had no mandate from the people, given that it was a “backdoor government” born from the Sheraton Move.
But it has been reluctant to take on Barisan Nasional, and the Opposition – be it Pakatan or PAS – has used the monsoon to justify not having the general election this year.
Logically, with the conviction of Datuk Seri Najib Razak for corruption still fresh in the minds of the people, it would be easier for the Opposition to take advantage of the situation.
It should be claiming credit for the anti-corruption rhetoric against Najib and other Umno leaders.
The Opposition is convinced that the issue will continue to be effective.
If Najib and the 1MDB financial scandal were successfully “used” during GE14 campaigning in 2018, they will definitely factor in now as well, since he remains a major talking point. This time, the Oppo-sition’s argument would be that if Barisan wins, Najib could be freed.
The former PM may be in prison, but he remains a dominant figure.
It’s still premature to predict GE15’s victor, but that hasn’t stopped chat groups, teh tarik sessions and family discussions from going into overdrive now that the dates for nomination and polling have been announced.
The campaign hasn’t started and until we know the line-up of the candidates, it will be hard to make an educated assessment.
The consensus this time is that it could be another round of inconclusive and fragmented results, with the various parties not securing enough numbers to form a government.
Then there are also those who have confidently predicted that Barisan will have an edge by highlighting the failures of the 22- month Pakatan government tenure, and that’s one reason for GE15 being called.
But hardcore DAP and PKR supporters claim there will be a repeat of GE14, where a 30% to 35% of Malay votes was enough to overthrow the Barisan government of 60 years. However, the parties and candidates will only really be tested in the coming weeks.
GE15 will be really rough. Those without the stomach and wits to bear the harrowing two weeks will falter.
No one should take anything – especially the voters – for granted.
Forget the old and jaded spiels, and don’t make assumptions either, especially when there will be 5.8 million new voters in this general election.
Wong Chun Wai
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.