MELAKA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Voting for the 15th Melaka state election ended at 5.30pm on Saturday (Nov 20), with the Election Commission earlier saying that voter turnout stood at 61 per cent at 4pm.
Polling stations opened between 8am and 5.30pm, with voters patiently queuing up across 217 district centres in 28 state seats. There are some 476,037 eligible voters. There are 112 candidates vying for the seats.
A party or coalition needs to win at least 15 of the 28 seats to win the majority to form the next state government.
Official results were expected at around 10pm, but political parties and their supporters often announce unofficial results much earlier based on exit polls and early counts.
The state election witnessed a battle of the behemoths with three political alliances: Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) fielding candidates in all 28 state seats.
BN is led by Umno, PN is led by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia, while PH is a three-party federal opposition pact. Though public rallies were banned during the 12-day campaigning period that started on Nov 8, all the top leaders of the three alliances were busy making public appearances.
The Melaka campaign has been rather awakward as Umno, Bersatu and PAS are members of the same federal government led by Umno's vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob, while PH has an agreement to support the Ismail administration in Parliament in return for reforms sought by the opposition.
The BN campaign was led by ex-premier Najib Razak, PN by ex-premier Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and PH by former deputy premier Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The Election Commission had outlined a Covid-19 prevention guide during the whole voting process to curb infections, with voters required to wear face masks, undergo body temperature checks, use hand sanitisers and practise physical distancing.
Early voting on Nov 16 saw an 89.9 per cent turnout, with 10,390 voters, consisting of police, military personnel and their spouses casting their ballots.
The election was held following the dissolution of the state assembly after four assemblymen withdrew their support for former chief minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali.
Some Melakans earlier said they were prepared to cast their ballots to exercise their constitutional duty as citizens.
Online marketer Mohd Duquore Duleq Mohd Bazain, 33, said he would vote at the Bukit Katil constituency to make sure his voice was heard.
He added that this would be the third time he would be casting his vote here.
"My hope is that I will be able to pick leaders who can execute and fulfill all their responsibilities," he said.
Mr Duquore Duleq added that the new state government must be able to provide a suitable ecosystem to support local businesses, especially youth, and help steer them towards post-Covid-19 recovery.
"They also need to identify those who are less fortunate and fall under the lower income category so they will not be left behind in Bukit Katil," he added.
Kesidang ward voter M. K. Tan, 45, said he would still make his vote count despite feeling unhappy at how the state polls were carried out.
"I still want to support my choice of candidate this time around and I hope this candidate will bring forward our voices to the state assembly.
"I hope the future leaders of Melaka will push for an anti-hopping law to deter defectors. Immature politicians who only care for their own personal agendas will only cost the people and the country its future. They should not be encouraged," said the engineer from Lorong Pandan.
As at Friday, Pengkalan Batu voter Bok Kam Yin, 71, said she was still undecided on coming out to vote on Saturday.
"My children are still worried about the Covid-19 situation as the infection rate has been climbing recently.
"They told me to prioritise my health and safety," she said, adding that this state election was not meaningful as it was "forced upon the people".