How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 2)

Election period

The general election or by-election begins when the Election Commission issues an election writ to the Returning Officer. A notice will be gazetted stipulating the dates for nomination and polling.

The general election is held within 60 days from the date that Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly are dissolved. By-elections also have to be held within 60 days from the date of a vacancy, caused by death, resignation or disqualification. In these cases, the commission will establish the date of vacancy.

Who can be a candidate?

A Malaysians citizen and resident, who is at least 21-years-old on nomination day, can either represent a party or stand as an independent candidate. He or she must be a resident of the state if contesting a state seat.

The Election Commission decides on the nomination day, which is when candidates submit their papers to contest in the election to the Returning Officers. The nomination papers can be submitted by the candidate, the proposer and seconder or by any one of them.

The papers must be submitted between 9am and 10am on nomination day. Between 10am and 11am, the nomination papers will be displayed for scrutiny and objection. If only one candidate is nominated, the Returning Officer will declare him/her as elected without contest.

A candidate representing a political party can use the party’s symbol provided he/she obtains written permission from the party’s head. Independent candidates may choose any of the symbols the Election Commission provides and these will be printed on the ballot papers.


Officially, a campaign can only begin after the nomination process is completed and should end at midnight before polling day. During this election, campaigning can only begin after nomination on Feb 24 and must conclude at midnight on March 7.

The commission can appoint an Enforcement Officer and establish one or more Enforcement Units in each parliamentary constituency if deemed necessary. The unit oversees campaign materials, election speeches and public rallies, to ensure that election laws and regulations are not breached.

The unit will comprise the Enforcement Officer from the commission and a representative each from the district police office, local government authority and party/candidate contesting. The Enforcement Officer reports to the Returning Officer.

The commission also sets up various committees at federal/state/constituency levels to brief political parties, candidates, or their agents and workers on the commission’s laws and regulations.

Normally, election campaigns are conducted through the distribution of pamphlets, letters, posters, buntings; closed-door talks and public rallies or ceramah; and house-to-house canvassing. These days, campaigning also takes place on the internet, through emails, websites, blogs and social networking sites.

(Sources: Election Commission, elections laws)

How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 1)

How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 3)

How do elections work in Malaysia? (Part 4)