Learn the lingo

The Star
Thursday February 14, 2008

With elections just round the corner, you are bound to hear lots of interesting comments. If you find the jargon a little hard to understand, the glossary provided below should come in useful.
Ballot papers
Slips of paper with the candidates’ names and symbols and a blank space for voters to indicate their choice by marking an X.
A special election held between regular elections in order to fill a vacancy caused by death, resignation or disqualification.
Talks given by candidates and key political figures as opposed to public rallies, which are banned.
An alliance of parties.
The electoral unit into which voters are organised to pick a representative in the Dewan Rakyat or a state legislative assembly.
Dark horse
A relatively unknown candidate who gets an unexpected amount of support or even wins.
Election abuses
Incidents of corruption of the electoral process that include bribery, the intimidation of voters and the spreading of damaging rumours about candidates.
Election Commission
The independent body that conducts parliamentary and state elections, registers voters and maintains electoral rolls.
Election petition
The results of an election can be challenged in court. A petition can be presented within a specified period on various grounds, including bribery, intimidation or any misconduct that may have affected the results and non-compliance with the election laws and regulations.
Election manifesto
A party’s official position in a general election, which includes its promises to voters.
A body of registered voters that will decide who is to represent them.
A person that has yet to decide whom he will vote for.
The rank-and-file of a party or voters that are not politically active.
To divide electoral districts in such a way that it favours one party.
An elected representative who is seeking re-election in the same constituency.
Independent candidate
One who is not running on any party ticket.
Majority rule
A political principle that empowers a majority of 50% or more of a group to make decisions binding the whole.
Mosquito party
A derogatory term commonly used to imply that a party is small and insignificant.
Parliamentary election
The election of representatives in the Dewan Rakyat for all parliamentary constituencies in Malaysia, conducted simultaneously in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.
The practice of changing one’s party affiliation, especially when one is an elected representative.
Play politics
To place self or partisan gain above larger party or public interests.
Polling day
The day when the electorate cast their votes.
Political mileage
The advantage gained in politics by capitalising on a particular situation.
Political suicide
An unpopular action or stand that will mean the end of one’s political career and/or defeat at the polls.
Popular votes
The actual number/percentage of votes garnered as opposed to the number/percentage of seats won.
Postal voting
Not all voting is done in person at the polling centre. Those who qualify (police and military personnel, diplomats, students abroad, etc) can mail their ballot papers to the returning officers.
Returning officer
An official, usually the district officer, appointed by the Election Commission in each parliamentary constituency to oversee the elections.
Ruling party
The party that wins the elections and forms the government.
State election
The election of representatives for state constituencies to the state legislative assembly.
Strange bedfellows
When parties or individuals that usually do not see eye-to-eye enter into a partnership, the expression used is “politics makes strange bedfellows”.
Two-thirds majority
It is commonly accepted that the winning party need this sort of results to form an effective government, linked possibly to the fact such numbers are required in the Dewan Rakyat to pass changes to the Federal Constitution.