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Commentary: Five things to watch as Malaysia prepares to head to the polls

Commentary: Five things to watch as Malaysia prepares to head to the polls

HOBART, Australia: Let the race begin. In the upcoming Malaysia General Election (GE15), the best description for competitive seats is “free for all”.

The Election Commission on Thursday (Oct 20) announced three important dates: Nomination Day on Nov 5, early voting on Nov 15 and Polling Day on Nov 19. There were no real surprises – the general consensus was for Malaysia to go to the polls in mid-Nov and a two-week campaign period.

What can we expect over the next fortnight before nomination day? Here are the major items to watch out for.

MAD SCRAMBLE ON CANDIDATE ISSUES

First, we can expect a mad scramble to sort out the candidate issue. While the political parties would have settled on most seats, there are problematic seats in both the government and the opposition side. There will always be highly competitive constituencies that all parties want.

This is especially difficult for coalitions where more than one member of the coalition is staking a claim. The golden rule is that the incumbent and his party have first claim.

In the past, this was a manageable problem given that there were really only two big coalitions fighting Malaysian elections – Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH). This is no longer the case. There are currently about 40 to 50 highly competitive constituencies.

There are three credible coalition – BN, PH and Perikatan Nasional (PN) – plus a smaller coalition, Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA). GTA consists of Malay nationalists’ parties led by Mahathir Mohamad, who at 97 is still in the game. On top of this, there are at least two new parties who will put up candidates in these competitive constituencies.

In the meantime, over the next fortnight, party leaders will be holding clandestine meetings with each other to sort out the candidate issue.

Nevertheless, I will not be surprised that on nomination day, there will be seats where members of the same coalition will actually field candidates against each other.

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