KUALA LUMPUR - Campaigning for Malaysia’s 15th general election kicked off nationwide on Saturday following nomination of candidates for 222 parliamentary wards and 116 state seats in Perak, Pahang and Perlis.
Candidates have submitted their nomination papers to the Election Commission (EC) officials.
EC officials have announced the candidacy for the wards. On the island of Langkawi in the northern state of Kedah, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is defending his seat, will be in a five-cornered fight.
His opponents are Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk Armishah Siraj, Perikatan Nasional Kedah chief Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah, Mr Zabidi Yahya of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and independent candidate Paduka Abdul Kadir.
Dr Mahathir, 97, told reporters that he is contesting because he has unfinished business. He also said he is willing to work with other parties as long as they are not led by “crooks and jailbirds”.
In the Bera parliamentary ward in Pahang, caretaker Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is in a three-cornered fight against Mr Abas Awang from PH and Perikatan Nasional’s Datuk Asmawi Harun.
In the Gombak parliamentary ward in Selangor, three-time incumbent MP and minister Azmin Ali will be facing his friend-turned-rival, Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari. Also in the fray are BN’s Megat Zulkarnain Omardin, Gerakan Tanah Air’s Dr Aziz Jamaludin Mhd Tahir and independent candidate Zulkifli Ahmad.
Supporters of the respective candidates were cheering and jeering when the names were announced by the EC official.
Over in Johor’s Pagoh parliamentary seat, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin will be defending his seat against rivals, BN’s Razali Ibrahim and PH’s Iskandar Shah.
In Sabah, a commotion broke out in the rural parliamentary ward of Tenom when the nomination papers for one of the candidates were rejected, prompting the police to fire tear gas to disperse the rowdy crowd.
Earlier, candidates arrived at the nomination centres accompanied by cheering supporters waving big and colourful flags, many of whom had gathered since early morning to welcome their leaders who will be standing in the polls.
In the parliamentary ward of Tambun in Perak, Pakatan Harapan (PH) supporters had gathered since 7.30am to welcome Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) President Anwar Ibrahim who will be contesting the seat. Some even set up booths selling snacks and merchandise like t-shirts, scarves and flags all emblazoned with PH’s red logo.
Datuk Seri Anwar’s key challenger will be Perikatan Nasional’s Ahmad Faizal Azumu, a Tambun local. Also in the running are Umno’s Tambun division head Aminuddin Hanafiah and Gerakan Tanah Air’s Abdul Rahim Tahir.
Also in Perak state, supporters of Umno chief Zahid Hamidi gathered by the hundreds near a vacant construction site adjacent to the Bagan Datuk nomination centre to greet Zahid, who arrived in a convoy led by dozens of motorbikes carrying Barisan Nasional (BN) flags.
In the parliamentary ward of Gombak in Selangor, supporters of Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari marched with him and his family towards the nomination centre, shouting “Reformasi” (Reformation) and “Pakatan Harapan”, as well as waving PH flags.
In the northern state of Kedah, Dr Mahathir arrived at the Langkawi nomination centre in a golf buggy, accompanied by his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.
In the nearby state of Perlis, former Umno minister Shahidan Kasim arrived at the nomination centre in the Arau constituency. After being dropped by BN, he will be standing in the seat as a candidate for Perikatan Nasional (PN), a development that could swing the tiny northern state away from Umno rule for the first time.
In Johor’s Pagoh ward, Tan Sri Muhyiddin, clad in a blue baju Melayu, arrived at the nomination centre. The serene morning was broken by the arrival of about 100 motorcycles, which formed part of his opponent Mr Razali’s convoy.
The upcoming election is expected to see a multi-cornered battle that is likely to result in no clear winner after the Nov 19 vote.
The fragmented political landscape, with three main coalitions and dozens of independent blocs vying for power, is likely to see close to a thousand nominations submitted on Saturday for the parliamentary seats, and hundreds more for the three state assemblies that chose to hold concurrent state polls.
The remaining six states which are due to hold elections chose to wait till next year, as annual monsoon rains are expected to hit the country from next week.
The states of Perlis, Perak and Pahang were ruled by Umno.
Analysts expect the ruling BN to garner the most seats in Parliament, putting the Umno-led coalition in pole position to form the next government.
But opinion polls showed approval of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s administration was at 31 per cent in October, lower than the 39 per cent mark in April 2018. This was just weeks before former premier Najib Razak – now jailed over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal – was deposed after Umno was defeated at the May 2018 general election, the first time in Malaysia’s six-decade history.