Malaysia’s Election Commission (EC) has set May 9 as the date for the country’s general elections, which is seen as the toughest challenge for scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition.
The announcement came days after Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the dissolution of parliament, paving the way for general elections in the country.
“The EC has held a meeting and established that polls must be held within 60 days of the date of dissolution,” the commission’s chairman, Mohd Hashim Abdullah, said at a press conference on Tuesday, adding that the polling date had been set for May 9. The commission also announced that candidates would be nominated on April 28. Candidates have only 11 days to campaign, the minimum campaigning period required by law.
The election date will fall on Wednesday, a weekday, in a rare move that rose concerns of voter turnout. “This raises the question for people wanting to take leave to travel to their hometowns and it reduces access to voters, unless 9 May is declared a public holiday,” Maria Chin Abdullah, who is now contesting elections with the opposition alliance, said.
Tensions rose recently after two pieces of legislation seen to be favoring Razak’s ruling Barisa Nasional coalition were rushed through the parliament. One of the laws has revised the electoral map, and the other, the so-called Anti-Fake News 2018 Bill, would allow prison terms of up to six years for spreading lies. Critics have described the moves as “dirty tricks” and “downright cheating” ahead of the elections.
The prime minister, who is grappling with a massive scandal at a state fund and public anger over rising living costs, is under pressure to deliver an emphatic win for the ruling coalition.—Agecnies