Sunday, June 5, 2011


My Constitution: Elections and democracy
Sunday, 05 June 2011 10:41am
©Malay Mail (Used by permission)


IN 'The Rakyat Guides 1: What is the Federal Constitution?', we learnt that the Federal Constitution sets up a system for the governance of Malaysia. It is a “democratic” system which means that the people of Malaysia decide who runs the country. We do this by voting at elections.

Under the Constitution, elections are held to select the 222 members of the Dewan Rakyat (known as “Members of Parliament” or “MPs”) and the 576 members of the 13 State Legislative Assemblies. In this Rakyat Guide, we will focus on elections for the Dewan Rakyat.

When do elections take place?

Elections for the Dewan Rakyat take place when Parliament is “dissolved”. When Parliament is “dissolved” this means that it is stopped from functioning. This can happen in two ways:

Parliament is automatically dissolved five years after the Dewan Rakyat’s first meeting; or
The Prime Minister can request that the Yang Di Pertuan Agong (“YDPA”) dissolve Parliament, and the YDPA may then decide to do so. While in most cases, the YDPA must act on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Constitution says that the YDPA may refuse to consent to a request to dissolve Parliament before its five year term ends.

Once Parliament is dissolved, a “general election” must take place within 60 days to select 222 new MPs.

How are elections conducted?

The Constitution does not give details on how elections are conducted.

It does however set up the Election Commission (“EC”) and makes the EC responsible for conducting elections for the Dewan Rakyat.

Parliament has also made laws on how elections are to take place and it has given the EC the powers it needs to conduct elections.

Under the law, once Parliament is dissolved, the EC will fix a “nomination day” and a “polling day” for the general elections.

There are 222 voting area (known as “constituencies”) throughout Malaysia, one for every seat in the Dewan Rakyat. On nomination day, anyone who wants to be elected as an MP in a particular constituency must file the proper documents with the EC official for that constituency (the “returning officer”).

The person who files the papers then becomes a candidate. If there is more than one candidate for a constituency, an election takes places there. If there is only one candidate, that candidate will be declared the winner.

After the nomination process, the campaign period begins and continues until the eve of polling day. This is when the candidates will try to persuade voters to vote for them.

On polling day, voters go to polling centres in their own constituencies and vote for the candidate they prefer.

Once the voting period is over, the votes are counted and the winners are announced. The winning candidate is the candidate who gets the most votes in that constituency.

Whichever political party or coalition of parties is able to secure the support of a majority of the MPs (at least 112 out of 222) will be invited by the YDPA to form the next Executive Government.

Who is eligible to be MP?

Any Malaysian living in Malaysia who is at least 21 years old can take part in an election to become an MP.

A person cannot become an MP if the person is:

of unsound mind
is a bankrupt
holds an office of profit (an office of profit means those holding a position in the judiciary, the Election Commission, the Auditor General and any other position that Parliament may declare)
spends more money than is allowed under the law on his or her election campaign
is found guilty of a crime where the punishment is a jail term of one year or more, or a fine of RM2,000 or more;\
becomes a citizen of another country or declares loyalty to another country

Who is eligible to vote?

Under Article 119 of the Constitution, you can vote if:

You are a Malaysian citizen;
You are at least 21 years old;
You are living in the constituency where you wish to vote;
You have registered to vote.

A person is disqualified from being a voter if the person is:

of unsound mind or serving a prison sentence; or,
has been convicted in any part of the Commonwealth and sentenced to death or to a term of imprisonment of more than 12 months and has yet to complete his/her sentence.

Are there an equal number of MPs/ constituencies for each State and Territory?

No. The allocation of seats depends on the size of the population and territory, and the constitutionally permissible weightage for rural areas.

Under the Constitution, the number of MPs/constituencies for each State and Territory is as follows:

• Johor : 26 • Pahang : 14 • Sarawak : 31

• Kedah : 15 • Penang : 13 • Selangor : 22

• Kelantan : 14 • Perak : 24 • Terengganu : 8

• Malacca : 6 • Perlis : 3 • Labuan : 1

• Putrajaya : 1 • Sabah : 25 • Kuala Lumpur : 11

• Negeri Sembilan : 8

The Constitution has been amended in the past to change the total number of MPs.

NEXT: The Rakyat Guides 9, Part 2 will continue with explanations on what is the Election Commission (EC) and some frequently asked questione

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