How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 1)

On March 8, Malaysia goes to the polls, 15 months before the current government’s five-year mandate ends.

Even though the last general election was held in 2004 and the law stipulates that elections for Parliamentary and state assembly seats be held once in five years, elections can also be held earlier. Indeed, this has been the case in many past polls.

How are elections conducted in Malaysia? Who can or cannot vote? Who can or cannot contest? MalaysiaVotes explains in this first of many parts.

The system

Since 1957, Malaysia has retained a multi-party political system – the political party which secures the majority of seats in Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly can form the federal or state government.

It is based on the first-past-the-post system. This means the candidate who secures a simple majority – even by one vote – is declared the winner.


A candidate is elected to represent the residents of a constituency in Parliament (federal election) or the State Legislative Assembly (state election).

As of 2008, there are 222 parliamentary and 576 state legislative seats. According to the Federal Constitution, the Election Commission is responsible for reviewing the boundaries of all constituencies, at intervals of not less than eight years.

Who can vote?

Voters/electors have to register with the Election Commission before they can vote. Qualification criteria:
i) Malaysian citizen;
ii) at least 21 years old;
iii) resident in any election constituency; and
iv) is not disqualified.

Who cannot vote?

A voter will be disqualified if he/she:
i) on the qualifying date is detained as a person of unsound mind or is serving a jail term; or
ii) before the qualifying date, has been convicted and sentenced to death or a jail term of more than 12 months and is still liable on the qualifying date; or
iii) is found guilty under the Election Offences Act, 1954; or
iv) has foreign citizenship.

How to check my voter registration status?

If you’re reading this, the easiest way is to go to to check your status on the electoral roll. Or call the Election Commission headquarters at T:+603-8885 6500.

Electoral roll

The electoral roll is revised throughout the year. You can register at the Election Commission’s headquarters or its state offices, at post offices or through the commission’s mobile teams.

The revised electoral rolls are prepared every three months and displayed for seven days for claims and objections.

After considering the claims and objections through public enquiry, the electoral rolls for that year will be confirmed by the commission within a month. During revision of the main roll, the names of deceased electors and those that have been disqualified under the law are supposed to be expunged from the roll.

(Sources: Election Commission, elections laws)

How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 2)

How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 3)

How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 4)