#Highlight* May 5 is election day

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PUTRAJAYA: The nation will go to the polls on May 5 to choose the next government at the federal and state levels, in what is seen as one of the most closely fought elections Malaysia has ever faced.

The Election Commission (EC), which met yesterday morning, has set April 20 as nomination day. Political parties therefore have 15 days to campaign.

The polling and nomination dates were announced by EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof (pic: front row, second from left) at 12.40pm yesterday, a little over two hours after he chaired a special meeting. The announcement puts an end to speculation over the polling date, which began since parliament was dissolved last Wednesday.

There are a total of 13.34 million registered voters, including 3.2 million new voters, in the country.

“We chose the dates following a lengthy discussion. We considered a number of factors including ensuring that they don’t clash with important events.

“The weather forecast for the polling date was also positive,” he told a packed press conference, held at a media centre which was set up near the EC’s headquarters. Also present was his deputy Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar.

Early or advanced voting for armed forces and police personnel, members of the media and EC employees will be held on April 30.

Abdul Aziz urged political parties to advise their supporters not to be overly emotional over the election.

“If their party loses, they can try again in the next election,” he said, adding that although there were reports of violence at political events, they were not serious enough to warrant action.

He disagreed with the notion that this election would be the “dirtiest” so far, stressing that it would be the “best election” ever held in the country.

On complaints by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that the 10-minute time frame given to political parties to air their pre-recorded manifestos was too short, Abdul Aziz said political parties should seize the opportunity.

“Even before recording, they have already rejected the idea. From 0 to 10 minutes. Take this opportunity,” he said.

When asked about party flags being put up even before the start of the campaign period, the EC chairman said the commission could only enforce the law once nominations are announced.

Anything outside the campaign period falls under the local government’s jurisdiction, he said, adding, “They [local councils] are supposed to enforce the law.”

Abdul Aziz also confirmed that polling will take place in all the areas in Sabah affected by the recent intrusion by Sulu terrorists, adding that it would be up to the army and police to increase security measures.

Over the past week, there was wide speculation on the possible polling date in cyberspace, with many netizens making their predictions on Facebook.

Earlier yesterday morning, while the EC meeting was still in progress, the New Straits Times sent out a tweet stating “Polling has been set on May 5”, quoting political sources.

The EC has allocated RM400 million for the 13th general election - making it the most expansive election to date - and will be deploying 234,905 staff to ensure a smooth polls. Candidates will be vying for 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats.

State elections will be held in all the states except Sarawak where the last state election was held in 2011 and the mandate will only end in 2016.

For more stories, go to www.fz.com, the website for freedom of expression and fairness in articulation.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 11, 2013.

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