Helpful info for voters in the 2008 Malaysian General Elections

This is a good guide. We have taken the liberty to update (in red) it based on latest information.

An informal reference guide for friends and family who are voting. Last revised Friday 7 Mar 2008. Please send feedback and corrections to The latest copy of the document can always be found at
1. The Election Process

  • All about the election process - Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya Malaysia (SPR) or Election Commission (EC) website:
  • Register well in advance (at least half a year) of the next expected election as the electoral roll often takes some time to be updated. If you anticipate being abroad during the time of the elections, register as a postal voter as soon as possible.

  • Check your voting status and polling centre so you'll know where to go on polling day.

  • On polling day

  • Polling centres are open 8am to 5pm.

  • To vote, bring any one of these: MyKad, old IC, Malaysian passport, driving license with photo, receipt issued by National Registration Dept, authority card issued by any government agency which includes the name, IC number and photo of bearer.
  • Either a pen or pencil can be used to mark the ballot paper. Bring your own pen in case pens are not provided at the polling centre. Be sure to make a clear and dark X for the person/party for which you are voting.

  • Are there provisions at polling centres for senior citizens, disabled people or pregnant women? Each polling centre has a special stream for senior citizens. Staff at the polling centre will give priority to disabled people or pregnant women to cast their vote.
  • Postal voting. Not everyone can vote as postal voter. To see if you are eligible to vote as a postal voter, please find out more at the SPR
  • What to do if you are not allowed to vote or if any of your rights (see below) are violated? Lodge a report at the nearest police station.

2. Your Rights as a Malaysian Citizen and Voter

As a Malaysian citizen, you have a number of basic electoral rights.

  • The right to vote if you are registered and above 21 years of age.
  • The right to vote in secret. (To this end, serial numbers were removed from ballots this year. SPR says that "your vote is secret".) [TM: Not correct. Serial nos. are still in place]
  • The right to access a fair and effective voter registration procedure.
  • The right to an easily accessible polling centre.
  • The right to cast your votes freely, without fear or intimidation from, or obligation to any party or person.

(Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union declaration on free and fair elections -
3. What constitutes 'free and fair' elections?

As a voter, you should be able to exercise all your rights listed above. The Inter-Parliamentary Union - an international organization of Parliaments of sovereign States (including that of Malaysia) - has agreed upon additional criteria, which include the following:

  • Citizens should have the right to express political opinions without interference; to seek, receive and impart information and to make an informed choice; and to run as a candidate and move freely within the country in order to campaign for election. (Acceptable restrictions can be placed on this. E.g. in many countries, civil servants, as servants of the government rather than any particular party, should not express political views or act in a partisan manner during the exercise of their duties; however, they may be allowed to participate in politics outside of working hours in their private life.)
  • Political parties should have the right to campaign on an equal basis with other political parties, including the party forming the existing government. This includes equal access to the media and equal protection for their persons and property under the law. Also, the campaigning period should be sufficient for all parties to spread their message.
  • Government (usually Parliament or the Election Commission as appropriate) has the responsibility to ensure the protection of the rights listed above and provide avenues for legal recourse if they are violated. As such, the Election Commission and its officers shall remain independent, non-partisan, impartial and free from manipulations from any political parties. It is also the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the election process is peaceful, transparent, efficient and impartial, including for example through the presence of party agents, national and international observers. Other responsibilities include regulating fundings of electoral campaigns, providing for efficient voter registration and voting, maintaining an up-to-date electoral roll and making sure that each person votes has the oportunity to vote once and only once.

The full 'Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections' can be found here:
4. What constitutes unfair elections?

Elections are unfair when any of the rights above are violated. Some concrete examples include:

  • Malapportionment. Malapportionment is the imbalance in terms of the number of voters by constituency. If there is to be no malapportionment, every constituency should have the same number of voters i.e. the 'one man one vote' principle. An example of malapportionment would be if a country had two constituencies, one with one voter and a second with one million. Every citizen's vote in the second constituency would be "worth" only 1/1000000 of the vote of the voter in the first constituency. Some exceptions to this rule are usually considered acceptable.

  • In Malaysia, malapportionment is serious, with over-representation of rural communities. Many rural constituencies have, in some cases, only 1/5th the number of voters in some of the larger urban constituencies. While the original 1957 Constitution provided safeguards against the size discrepancy such that discrepancy between any two districts is not more than 15%, this restriction was abolished in later constitutional amendments, therefore resulting at times in very large size discrepancies in constituencies. (eg: Putrajaya has about 6,000 voters while districts in Penang have on average 50,000 voters). There are different ways of measuring malapportionment but here is one intuitive example. In Malaysia, it takes about 33.4% of voters to win 50% of parliamentary seats. If there was no malapportionment, you would need to win 50% of voters to win 50% of seats.

  • Gerrymandering. Gerrymandering refers to the drawing up of constituency lines so that electoral boundaries can be manipulated to gain an electoral advantage.

  • In Malaysia, the recent 2003 electoral boundary delimitation changes to create 25 new constituencies in predominantly BN-supporting areas was highly controversial, and was opposed by opposition members of parliament, leading to a collective opposition member walk-out during the parliamentary session.

  • Threats against voters (implicit or explicit), and partisan treatment of voters, particularly civil servants.
    A key point to understand here is that there is a difference between what is commonly called 'the government' and particular political parties, such as BN, DAP, PAS, PKR etc. No matter which political party wins the elections and forms the majority in parliament, the executive agencies of the government and civil servants must stay put and continue to do their job. Examples of such bodies and people are: civil servants and government doctors with the Ministry of Health, school teachers etc. They serve the country as a whole, NOT THE RULING POLITICAL PARTY, and have a responsibility to do so without fear or favour.

    Thus, a political party has no right to say such things as 'If you do not vote us, and we win the elections, we will not give you electricity or mend your roads this time around.' Nor does it have the right to carry out such threats. The reason for this is that the mending of roads is done by the Jabatan Kerja Raya (JKR), which is a government agency, not a political party. The JKR has a responsibility to serve all Malaysian citizens to maintain the national road system (given budget and other constraints) without regard to the MP for the area or the party forming the state government. In principle JKR and other executive agencies in the government have nothing to do with politics. This also means that civil servants are FREE to vote for whoever they choose.

Postal voting system. Not all Malaysians are allowed to vote by post. There is confusion over who is eligible, and it is important to ascertain the truth. This SPR document may be a good starting point - The postal voting system has been criticized as lacking transparency. The actual marking of postal votes on the ballots is not a scrutinized process (whereas at voting centres, voters cast their vote in sight of observers but within a voting booth). Voter identification slips are found in voter packages too, jeopardizing the anonymity of the votes. Malaysians abroad like overseas students and professional have reported difficulties in registering as postal voters at Malaysian embassies.

  • Phantom voters. Incidences of irregularities with the electoral roll have been reported. Some issues reported through BERSIH and other election monitoring bodies are: about 9,000 voters aged 100 and above, multiple registrations at the same address (up to 40 people registered at one home address), non-existent addresses, voters registered outside of their home district without their prior knowledge, out-station voters transferred en-masse from one district to another, etc.
  • Independence of Election Commission (EC). Certain factors may negatively affect the independence of the entity entrusted with carrying out elections. Examples include:

  • Recommendations made by the EC requiring the approval of the government.
  • Members of the EC being appointed by the government. Ideally, an Election Commission should be an independent institution with a structure made up of multi-party representatives.

  • Unequal access to press and media. Unequal access to the mainstream media by political parties can hurt their ability to communicate with voters, thereby preventing voters from making the most informed choice possible.

  • In Malaysia, three NGOs have teamed up to monitor the mainstream media's coverage of the 2008 General Elections. Read their opinions at

For more information on some issues that have been raised about the electoral process in Malaysia, please refer to BERSIH's Joint Communique at
Other information:

5. History and Key statistics

In the 11th General Elections in 2004, Barisan National garnered 64% of the popular vote and won 91% of the seats in Parliament. The Opposition garnered 36% of the popular vote and won 9% of the seats in Parliament.
================================================== =================
Party Votes % Seats Change
United Malays National Organisation 2,483,249 35.9 109 +38
Malaysian Chinese Association 1,074,230 15.5 31 +02
Malaysian People's Movement 257,763 03.7 10 +04
Malaysian Indian Congress 221,546 03.2 9 +02
Other National Front parties 383,664 05.5 39 +05

Total National Front 4,420,452 63.9 198 +51

Islamic Party of Malaysia 1,051,480 15.2 7 -20
Democratic Action Party 687,340 09.9 12 +02
People's Justice Party 617,518 08.9 1 -04
Others 139,438 02.1 1 -02
Total 6,916,138 219 +26
If you want to learn more, websites like and have detailed breakdowns of all election data since 1959.
6. What can you do?

Before and on this Saturday

  • Educate yourself on the candidates standing in your area, the issues you care about, and the candidates' positions on them.

  • Know your rights as a citizen and voter.

  • List of rights above - see section 2 "Your Rights as a Malaysian Citizen and Voter"
  • If you are unclear about your rights or feel they have been violated, don't sit back! Find out more and take action. At the very least, write down in detail what you observed.
  • Miscellanous fact regarding district boundaries: If 100 or more registered voters in a constituency object to the EC about the delimitation of its boundaries, a "local inquiry" must be made. [Section 7, Schedule 13 of the Federal Constitution]

  • Educate yourself on the electoral process and what constitutes 'free and fair elections'.
  • Organise a 'balik kampung' voting/reunion trip with your classmates/friends/relatives.
  • Think about the longer-term issues for Malaysia. Think about the changes you hope to see for Malaysia -- true and deep harmony for all races and religions, deep-rooted stability and peace in our communities, meritocracy, opportunities for development for all citizens. Think about what has been accomplished, and not accomplished in the past four years. You have the right to vote and the power to help shape our country. Envision what kind of country you want your children and grandchildren to grow up in, and use your vote wisely to help build a better Malaysia.

After this Saturday

  • Register to vote! (If you haven't already.)
    Go personally to registration centre (Post office/EC headquarters/State Election Office/Mobile registration unit at public places) with I/C. Ensure Form A is correctly filled by the staff before signing the form. Keep one copy of the form as proof of your registration. More info at
  • Know your representatives, both MP (parliament) and ADUN (state). Communicate with them if you have ideas, complaints or just want to get to know their views on certain issues. Don't feel shy about taking up their time - their job is to get to know you and to represent you in the government.
  • Express your views. If you feel that your rights as a citizen have been violated, or if you have an idea for how our country can work better, TAKE ACTION! Communicate with the appropriate government agencies; talk to your MP; write a letter to the press; remember that many great things start small. Don't assume that 'nobody will listen' to what you have to say. In some cases that may be true, but you may be pleasantly surprised if you exercise your rights as a citizen.
  • Create awareness, reasoned discussion and informed action among your friends and family. Encourage others to vote. Talk to your friends and speak at public forums about current issues in the country in a reasonable manner: do not make personal attacks against others; make sure that what you say is based on fact; consider all sides of every situation. Help organise public forums and discussions on current affairs; invite your friends to them. Help your friends to see different aspects of each issue so that they can make informed decisions.
  • Seek to understand the important issues. To deeply understand issues of importance, it is often critical to try to understand the points of view on "all sides" of the issue. The Internet is a valuable resource for obtaining information. There are various online forums that try to discuss various issues pertaining to Malaysia in a balanced fashion, among them Promuda: and the Malaysia Forum:

7. Key websites



Political parties & Candidates

Party websites: Barisan Nasional, DAP, PAS, PKR.
Other websites at
Candidate and party leader websites & blogs: See
Other interesting websites


  • You are eligible to vote if you are a Malaysian citizen above 21 years of age and have registered to vote (to check if you have registered, enter your IC number here:
  • You can place your vote:When: March 8th, 2008 (Saturday)
    Where: At your designated polling centre
    What to bring: Your MyKad, old IC, Malaysian passport, driving license with photo, OR receipt issued by National Registration Dept AND a pen.
  • If any of your voting rights have been violated or you notice instances of malpractice, LODGE A POLICE REPORT.
  • VOTE !