By Noor Hayati Muda
KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 (Bernama) — After 13 days of listening to endless pledges and appeals at ceramah, house-to-house campaigns and media blitz, the more than 10.8 million eligible voters in the country will cast their votes tomorrow to elect a new government.
A total of 214 out of 222 parliamentary seats are at stake to determine the direction of the federal government, while 501 out of 505 state seats are up for grabs determine the state governments, except for Sarawak.
The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) is again expected to win with a two-third majority and is working hard to wrest Kelantan from PAS.
Parliament was dissolved on Feb 13 and nominations were held on Feb 24.
The Election Commission (EC) has set up a total of 7,950 polling centres nationwide, with 21,822 polling streams comprising mainly schools, multipurpose halls and longhouses that will be open from 8am to 5pm tomorrow.
However, polling in some deep rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak will end early, probably at 1pm due to the small number of voters and geographical factors. Among them are Baram, Lawas and Hulu Rejang which are accessible only by helicopter and boat.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the commission expected a 75 per cent turnout tomorrow.
The BN is going into the polls with eight parliamentary seats and three state seats already won unopposed while the opposition won one state seat through PAS in Kijang, Kelantan.
The BN won the parliamentary seats of Selangau, Kanowit, Tanjung Manis, Kapit and Igan (Sarawak), Kalabakan and Pensiangan (Sabah), and Pengerang (Johor) while the state seats are Bugaya and Gum Gum (Sabah), and Sementa (Selangor).
The 14-party coalition is contesting in all the remaining 214 parliamentary seats, while Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is fielding candidates in 97, Pas (66) and DAP (47 seats).
In the 2004 general election, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi led the BN to a thumping victory, winning 199 of the 219 parliamentary seats and 453 state seats at stake.
There will be three new parliamentary seats, all in Sarawak, in this year’s election.
While there were initially 10,922,139 registered voters, including 221,085 postal voters eligible to vote, tomorrow’s polls will only see 10,607,874 voters having the opportunity to exercise their rights.
This is because police and armed forces personnel have already cast their postal votes this week and a total of 93,180 voters from the five uncontested parliamentary constituencies in Sarawak will be staying home as there is no state election there.
The EC, which has allocated RM200 million for running the election and will mobilise 200,000 staff to man the whole process, is introducing transparent ballot boxes to replace the old black metal boxes, as well as doing away with the serial number of voters on ballot paper.
However, its plan to use indelible ink has been cancelled at the last minute, citing public security and legal problems.
Despite the “hot” political climate during campaigning, voters may have to bring along their umbrellas tomorrow as the Meteorological Department has forecast scattered rain in some parts of the country.
It said there will be rain in the morning in several coastal areas in Pahang and east Johor, east Sandakan and Kudat in Sabah, and coastal areas of Kuching, Sri Aman, Samarahan, Betong and Sarikei in Sarawak.
In the afternoon however, rain is expected at most areas in Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and west Johor, and also several areas in Sabah and Sarawak.
While the campaigning has been relatively incident-free, police are not taking any chances and have assured the public that there would be tight security to ensure that voters cast their votes without fear or favour.
Besides the ordinary police personnel, the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel will also be deployed, especially in areas considered as “hot spots”.
The results are expected to be announced from 8.30pm onwards.
Malaysians Go To The Polls Tomorrow
By Noor Hayati Muda