Malaysia heads to the polls for GE15
19 November, 2022
Malaysians on Saturday (Nov 19) started casting their ballots for the 15th General Election (GE15) to give lawmakers a fresh mandate against the backdrop of political turbulence in recent years.
The previous election in 2018 saw the end of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) reign after six decades, amid allegations of graft against key members of the ruling coalition. The opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition emerged victorious.
Back then, PH’s component parties included Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
But less than two years into a five-year mandate, the PH government collapsed amid infighting and a political manoeuvre dubbed the “Sheraton Move”, which saw Bersatu’swithdrawal from PH and the defection of several MPs from PKR. A new Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition - led by Bersatu - was formed, and its leader Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as prime minister on Mar 1, 2020.
This change in administration was criticised as a betrayal to the people’s mandate in the 2018 election.
However, the PN government was soon plagued by political bickering. A growing loss of confidence in Mr Muhyiddin’s leadership led to his resignation in August 2021.
Mr Muhyiddin’s departure saw the return of BN to power with the appointment of Mr Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the third prime minister in the last two years.
Subsequently, pressure from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) top leadership, with a constant narrative that the government was still shaky and in need of a new mandate, finally prompted Mr Ismail Sabri to dissolve parliament.
Four main coalitions - BN, PH, PN and the Dr Mahathir-led Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) - are contesting this year’s election. The coalition that wins a simple majority of 112 out of 222 federal seats will get to form the government.
In the absence of a clear winner - which many analysts are predicting - the coalitions must decide who to work with to form a coalition government through negotiations that could last long into the night.
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, a PN component party, has said that its first choice - if need be - is BN, and that it will not work with PH due to differences with the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
At Vivekanda school in Brickfields south, Kuala Lumpur, retiree Choh Choy Ying was one of the first to cast their vote for the Bukit Bintang federal seat amid a slight drizzle.
“I came early because I was afraid it would rain,” the 70-year-old said, her finger stained with indelible ink. “Everything was ok. I’m used to the voting process.”
The Bukit Bintang seat is being contested by candidates from Perikatan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional.“I’m not sure - there’s a 50-50 chance,” Mdm Choh said when asked if she was confident her choice of candidate could win.
Meanwhile over at Sri Muar Secondary School, a polling centre for the Muar federal seat in northern Johor, voters started arriving at 8am amid heavy downpour.
Some came in umbrellas and started queueing from 7.30am, half an hour before the polling centre opened.
At 8am, Election Commission officials clad in rain jackets opened the front gate and directed the voters for registration.
One of the voters Mdm Khamisah Ahmad told CNA that she wanted to get her voting done early in spite of the wet weather.
"I would rather get it done early to avoid the crowds later in the day," said the 50-year-old.
The Muar federal seat is a three-cornered fight between Malaysian United Democratic Alliance candidate Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Barisan Nasional candidate Mohd Helmy Abd Latif and Perikatan Nasional’s Abdullah Husin.
The incumbent MP for Muar Syed Saddiq arrived at the polling centre at around 8.20am to greet voters.
He told CNA that he would be visiting a few polling centres in Muar "to see that everything is in order".
BN candidate Mohd Helmy arrived at Sri Muar school at around 8.50am. The 41-year-old met with some voters and also casted his ballot.
At around 9am, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin entered the school to cast his vote. The Perikatan Nasional chairman was accompanied by his wife and security officials.
Mr Muhyiddin is defending his seat in the neighbouring Pagoh constituency.
Speaking to reporters outside the polling centre, Mr Muhyiddin urged residents to come out early to vote.
"You never know if the rain will get heavier or there might be flood-related problems," said Mr Muhyiddin.