The Star: February 18, 2008
WHAT do you have to do to get elected? Well, if you’re a party man, you must have your party’s endorsement letter first. If you’re an independent, you must have the dough for the deposits. Only then can you make your way to the nomination centre.
But hold your horses … You must be over 21 and of sound mind, not an un-discharged bankrupt, and not have been convicted of an offence by court and jailed for more than a year or fined more than RM2,000 and have not received a free pardon (invalid after five years).
Wait, there’s more.
A person who is a citizen of a country outside Malaysia, and a person convicted of offences in connection with the elections is not eligible. Anyone in the public service sector – namely, civil service, armed forces, police, judicial and legal service, railway service and the education service – is disqualified. Those in any of these categories will have to resign first in order to be eligible.
Fit the bill so far? Next thing is that you need to be a resident of Malaysia if you are seeking a parliamentary seat. For state seats, you must reside in the state where you are contesting.
Here’s where you need others’ help. You need a proposer and a seconder; they must reside in the constituency where you are contesting. To find out, check the electoral rolls (the list of registered voters) and it has to be the final version. You can do so by either going to the nearest Election Commission (EC) office or checking their website (www.spr.gov.my).
Next, you have to obtain the nomination forms from the EC. This is a set of forms which consists of the nomination form proper, a statutory declaration form, an elections secrecy form and a deposit form – all to be filled out in triplicate.
On nomination day, the candidate may skip going to the centre (but lose the chance to have 15 minutes of fame) and instead send his/her proposer or seconder, or both. There’s nothing to stop you from making it a crowd and you are actually encouraged to do so. Remember, you have to get it done between 9am and 10am.
If for some reason you decide to withdraw at the last moment, then you have to be there in person before 10am to do so if you want to keep your deposit. You can now withdraw within three days after nomination, but you lose your deposit.
If by 11am the returning officer has approved your nomination and there is no challenge on technical or legal grounds, then you have become an official candidate. If you’re an independent, you get to pick your symbol from a list of 20 approved ones. Sorry, you can’t come up with your own symbol.
Well, if you’re a fan of Ramlah Ram’s Kau Kunci Cintaku dalam Hatimu or Alicia Keys, then there’s a set of keys for you, or if you’re a traveller at heart, then go for the plane logo.
Now, it is all systems go for you to put up your campaign material and start campaigning (that is, if you want to). Go shake all the hands and kiss all the babies you want. You may need some help at this stage, too.
You can appoint an election agent (one), who is like your chief of staff, who must maintain an office in the constituency; canvassers (more than one); polling agents (who will help observe whether voting goes according to the rules on polling day at each polling station); and counting agents (who must verify the votes cast for spoilt ones) at the counting centres.
Again, the pre-qualifications for being a candidate apply to both the election agent and the canvasser. If you are quite the lonely independent soul and have no one to help you out, you can do all the work. But on polling day the votes must be initialled by you or your representative; since there could be more than one counting centre, you will need help.
If you are planning on campaigning, then come up with some manifestos or issues that make up your platform, something to win over the voters. The campaign period is from nomination day to polling day, and requires a minimum of seven days.
Be careful of what you say, too, as there is a sedition clause in the Election Offences Act 1954 that carries a heavy penalty if you or your agents are guilty of saying seditious things.
On polling day, you will have a counter set aside for you outside the polling centres (that caters to about 700 voters each) to attract voters. You are not permitted to influence voters through corrupt and other illegal means as defined in the Election Offences Act. And that stand-50m-away-from-the-polling-station clause is also in effect.
The EC can form enforcement units to be deployed at all parliamentary constituencies. So, Big Brother is watching.
Polling starts at 8am and ends at 5pm. In some rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak, it might start later and end earlier. After voting ends, the ballot boxes are sealed and transported to counting centres where you or your agents can monitor the counting.
The result will then be sent to the tally centre and the EC will certify it before the returning officer announces the winner. If there are any disputes, the affected party can then file an election petition with the High Court not later than 21 days after the results are gazetted.
So if you’re a winner by now, congratulations and keep your promises and get ready to do your job as an elected representative of the people. The question is – is the country ready for you?
# For enquiries, please call the Election Commission ( 03-8885 6500) or go to its website www.spr.gov.my.
How to be a candidate
The Star: February 18, 2008