Parliament dissolves: What does that mean and what’s next?

The EC will now have to call for a meeting and decide on a suitable date for nominations and polling day. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
The EC will now have to call for a meeting and decide on a suitable date for nominations and polling day. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has officially announced the dissolution of the 13th Parliament, effective tomorrow.

That means the dispersal of the elected members of the legislature, and the start of another election season for the next members of the Dewan Rakyat as well as other state legislatures that would have automatically disbanded by June 24 if dissolution was not called earlier.

Who’s in charge now?

For now, until polling is held and wrapped up and a clear victor emerges, Najib and the members of his Cabinet will act as the caretaker government of Malaysia.

So, how long will that be?

The 14th general election will have to be held within 60 days. Will it take two months then? Not nearly.

The Malaysian election is dealt with in terms of days that last some weeks rather than months.

For example, in 1959, the campaigning period lasted 35 days while in 2004, which was the shortest campaign period in Malaysia’s election history, it lasted just eight days.

In the last round, the 12th Parliament was dissolved on April 3, 2013, paving the way for the 13th general election which was held May 5 the same year.

Who decides when elections will be held?

The Election Commission (EC), a seven-member board appointed by the King, who is officially advised by the prime minister.

The EC will now have to call for a meeting and decide on a suitable date for nominations and polling day.

It will also issue a writ to its returning officers (RO) in charge of each constituency and inform them of their duties on nomination day and polling day.

Nomination day

The EC will set a date for nomination day, which can happen any time from the next 24 hours, but which has in the past usually been scheduled for about two to three weeks from Parliament’s dissolution.

Those keen to become lawmakers must register their candidacy by filing their nomination papers between 9am and 10am on that one day. If they miss that one-hour window, they will not be allowed to stand for elections.

The assigned ROs in each constituency then check the candidates’ background and see if they are eligible. Candidates must meet three criteria, that is, they must be Malaysian citizens, they must be of sound mind, and they must not be bankrupt.

Eligible candidates are announced on the same day. It also marks the official start of the election campaigning period.

What happens before nomination day?

Not a great deal officially, though plenty of activities take place behind closed doors.

Political parties will hold lots of meetings, discuss their campaign plans and execution and some announce their candidates before nomination day.

There is a chance of soft campaigning — announcement of ceramahs or rallies in certain districts — as parties announce their parliamentary or state-level objectives with the public.

After nominations day

The campaign period proper intensifies. Apart from going on the stump during the nightly ceramahs — sometimes from the back of lorries — candidates and their parties will also personally tour their constituencies in the marketplace, shops where masses of people gather and even go door to door for home visits.

Candidates must observe the following rules of the campaign — no use of improper materials, no illegal forums and no going above the set campaign spending limits of RM200,000 each for parliamentary seats and RM100,000 for state constituencies, as state under Section 19 of the Election Offences Act 1954.

However, the law does not mention spending limits for a political party.

The campaign period officially ends on 11.59pm on the eve of polling day.

Polling day

Considering the widespread anticipation for GE14, polling day this term can easily be considered one of the most important days in Malaysia’s history.

Registered voters cast their poll for both parliamentary and state level candidates.

Polling day will be decided by the EC from anywhere between the next 24 hours until up to a week.

Polling stations, which are usually schools closed to students for the day, are open to registered voters to cast their ballots from 8am and close at 5pm.

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