Malaysia election: Weekday polls not new to Malaysia, took place when Mahathir was PM, says BN

The Malaysia Election Commission building in Putrajaya. The Election Commission previously announced that polling would be on May 9, which falls on a Wednesday. PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Opposition pact Pakatan Harapan should not be complaining that Malaysia's general election will be held on a weekday because the same was done when its chairman Mahathir Mohamad was premier, says ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

According to BN's Strategic Communications unit (BNSC), polling took place on a weekday three times under Tun Mahathir's premiership.

"Dr Mahathir's first general election as Prime Minister was held on Thursday, April 22, 1982. His last two general elections as Prime Minister in 1995 and 1999 were also held on weekdays - Monday and Tuesday, April 24-25, 1995 and Monday Nov 29, 1999," said BNSC deputy director Datuk Eric See-To in a statement Tuesday (April 10).

Earlier Tuesday, the Election Commission (EC) announced that polling would be on May 9, which falls on a Wednesday.

Opposition member Wan Saiful Wan Jan had described the move to schedule polls midweek as "another attempt by (Prime Minister) Najib Razak and Umno to steal the election".

"Umno wants a low turnout because they know a high number of voters are not with them," said Mr Wan Saiful, a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia supreme council member, in a statement. PPBM, led by Dr Mahathir, is a component party of PH.

Mr See-To added that he understood the decision made by the EC to declare polling day on a weekday.

"While I do not speak for the EC, I can understand that there is merit in selecting Wednesday as they may deem this to be fair to all states and allow results and turn-out rates to be consistent throughout Malaysia and not be skewed in certain states," he said.

He explained that states like Terengganu, Kedah and Kelantan have their weekends on a Saturday while Friday is considered a half-day.

The weekend in Johor, a key battleground state, falls on Friday to Saturday.

"If the election is set on a Sunday, it will not be fair to those states. Likewise, if an election was set on a Friday, it will not be fair to other states.

"Similarly if the election was set on a Saturday, it would be a half working day for some and a full rest day for others," Mr See-To said.

He noted that even the United States held its presidential elections on Tuesday, Nov 8, 2016.

Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 had also criticised the May 9 election date because it made it difficult for voters to "balik kampung" (return to their hometowns) to vote.

"Those who have to 'balik kampung' to vote will be at an added disadvantage, especially those that have to return to Sabah or Sarawak from the peninsula and vice versa.

"We can now expect to see even lower voter turnout and further hardship for all voters," it said in a statement on Tuesday.

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