Malaysia’s 14th General Election features many firsts

From record multi-cornered fights to shock disqualifications, this election is 'unprecedented' in many ways

Already dubbed "unprecedented" with the emergence of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the first former premier to seek a return to power, Malaysia's 14th General Election will showcase a slew of other firsts.

Record number of multi-cornered fights

This will ensue for the 222 parliamentary seats that will determine federal power, after so-called third force Gagasan Sejahtera led by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) on Saturday registered candidates in more than 150 wards nationwide.

As at 3pm on Saturday, more than 2,200 candidates had been certified by the Election Commission (EC) to run in 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats nationwide.

Single logo

This election will also be the first time the main opposition pact contests under a single logo, in its uphill bid to wrest power from ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).

Pakatan Harapan (PH), now led by the 92-year-old Mahathir, will campaign under the banner of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), a party that was formed after he sacked his former nemesis Anwar Ibrahim from government in 1998.

This also means that for the first time since it was established in 1965, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) will not use its rocket symbol at the election.

Top men take the lead

Leaders of the three main factions will all face multi-cornered contests in their seats.

Prime Minister Najib Razak will defend his BN constituency in Pekan, Pahang, which he first won in 1976, while Dr Mahathir emerges from retirement to run in Langkawi, in his home state of Kedah. PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang will contest in Marang, Terengganu.

Shocking disqualifications

With close to 2,000 hopefuls across the country aiming to confirm their candidacy on Saturday, some were left disappointed as their applications were rejected by the EC.

The most shocking of these was that of PKR vice-president and two-term MP Tian Chua, who was barred from defending his Batu seat in Kuala Lumpur due to a conviction for insulting a policeman.

Mr Chua had earlier been fined RM3,000 (S$1,010) and sentenced to a six-month jail term for the offence, disqualifying him from running for office. However, this sentence was later reduced to a RM2,000 fine.

"We lost Batu. Returning officer said it's final. No nomination for PH in Batu," he said .

EC chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah said on Saturday that Mr Chua's disqualification was based on a court decision.

"If the candidate feels they need to object, they can file a petition to the court," he said.

Another PKR candidate, Dr Streram Sinnasamy, also saw his hopes evaporate, after being barred from entering the nomination centre to contest the Rantau seat defended by Negeri Sembilan Chief Minister Mohamad Hasan, who is now unopposed.

The EC refused him entry because neither he nor his proposer and seconders had entry passes from the EC, which had to be applied for in advance.

PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli said Dr Streram would challenge the decision in court, and accused BN of foul play as candidates in other seats were allowed to enter nomination centres without the passes.

This saw a response from Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who is bidding to remain as MP for Rembau - where the Rantau state seat is located - but also Mr Najib.

Mr Khairy tweeted: "Ask your PKR candidate why he did not apply for his EC pass. I don't think the Menteri Besar or I have to answer for your own candidate's mistakes."

Mr Najib said on Twitter: "This is just instigation when your own candidate is not ready but you blame the police."

Both these disqualifications are unprecedented in recent times, said political observers.

It is practically unheard of for the EC to ignore a court judgment, while there are no laws regarding entry pass requirements to become a candidate.

Several other opposition candidates were also barred as they were declared bankrupt, but some insisted that recent checks with the authorities showed they were cleared.

These disqualifications have made PH's mission to unseat Mr Najib even more difficult, seeing as they need another 40 seats to add to their current 72 to claim a simple majority.

Recent studies show that despite ebbing Malay support for BN, it is still expected to win comfortably thanks to multi-cornered battles featuring PAS.

"I am more than 90 years old. There isn't much time left. But as far as I can, I will try my best with the help of my friends to save our country Malaysia," Dr Mahathir said on Saturday.