Midweek polls irk Malaysians in Singapore
Polls on May 9, a Wednesday, will affect voter turnout, say critics
Malaysia will hold its 14th General Election on May 9, the Election Commission (EC) announced yesterday, the first time in nearly 20 years that polls are not held on a weekend.
May 9 is a Wednesday. The last time a general election was held on a weekday was in 1999, on a Monday.
Nomination Day will be on April 28, after which parties can begin campaigning.
"The campaign period will last 11 days," said EC chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah. Eleven days is the minimum campaigning period required by law.
The polling date was criticised by the opposition.
"Umno wants a low turnout because it knows a high number of voters are not with it," Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council member, said yesterday.
The ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), led by Umno, said opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) had no reason to complain because weekday polls were held three times when PH chairman Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister - in 1982, 1995 and 1999.
A mid-week election is likely to affect thousands of voters hoping to return to Malaysia from neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Thailand, or those who work in urban centres on Malaysia's west coast but are registered to vote in less-developed states such as Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak.
Malaysians working in Singapore scrambled to make travel plans after the election date was announced.
Coach tickets from Singapore to Malaysian cities sold out in hours, and Facebook carpooling groups linking drivers seeking passengers, and the other way round, sprang up.
Within hours of posting notices, several drivers had found passengers and had to turn others away.
At least 400,000 Malaysians work in Singapore.
Malaysians living in Singapore, south Thailand and Kalimantan in Indonesia cannot vote by post and must return home to vote on Polling Day.
Seven of the 15 Malaysians The Straits Times spoke to said they would return home to vote. Several could not take leave or had prior plans. Others did not want to take leave or spend on travel.
Mr Sangar Vasu, 20, a cleaner, said: "I travel back from 7pm to 9pm daily, so voting on a Wednesday will be difficult."
Nanyang Technological University student Joseph Seah, 23, said: "I wish I could vote, but I have finals on that day."
Ms Ong Shwu Fong, 44, a part-time coordinator, said her first reaction was that the EC was "deliberately making it difficult for people to travel back to their home address to vote".
About 14.9 million people are registered to vote in the elections, which will see three-cornered fights between BN, PH and Parti Islam. - THE STRAITS TIMES
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