by Clive Kessler
Nomination day, “day zero” of the official election campaign, is now over. The campaign period has therefore begun.
Perhaps two main things can be observed:
First, that while this is the first election since the first post-independence elections of 1959 in which all seats have been contested (there have been no walk-overs or unopposed victories), some other, far less attractive old features of Malaysian electoral practice have returned.
One is the proliferation of three- and multi-cornered contests.
In part this situation is due to the rebellion against their own parties of some hopefuls who failed to gain party endorsement. The most notable case is the deputy head of Wanita Umno in Kuala Kangsar.
In part it is due to the “shambolic” situation in places such as Labuan and Sungei Aceh, where Pas and PKR could not work out any sensible arrangements. Neither side would blink, give way. This stubbornness may end up costing the opposition heavily.
But the main reason for the large number of three- and multi-cornered contests is the return in a big way of an ugly old practice.
To increase their chances under the ultimately indefensible “first-past-the-post” (or simple “plurality” rather than an overall “majority”) voting system, parties urge and manoeuvre individuals with strange political fantasies and grudges to “try their luck” by standing as independents.
In the overwhelming number of cases announced today, these independent candidates are simply “spoilers” who have been nominated to split opposition votes and so help government-backed candidates in contests that are expected to be close.
Even before nomination day, there were ominous signs that this tawdry mischief would significantly mar GE13. Bernama reported earlier this week that the great majority of candidate nomination forms were purchased by, or on behalf of, independent candidates, not those of the two main rival ‘blocs’ or coalitions.
Some of those candidates pretend to be truly independent, politically unattached.
But some have strangely emerged as candidates of parties that are not merely moribund but which have in effect been defunct for many years. Berjasa for example.
Dead people who walk are known as ghoul and zombies. These candidates are the nominees of ghoul and zombie parties, of organizations of the political “walking dead”.
A second thought.
For almost two decades now Anwar Ibrahim has been waiting and preparing himself for the challenge that he now faces.
For the challenge that he will have to mount, with powerful persuasive effect, over the next 15 days.
Whether he is capable of governing or not, who knows?
Is he even up to the challenge of projecting himself as a plausible national leader in a nation-wide election?
His test, and his moment of truth, have now come.