5 facts you may not know about Malaysia's 15th general election

elections
elections

It is less than two weeks to go till Malaysia's 15th general election polling day on 19 November.

From promises to bring in pandas to using foul words as a name on the ballot paper, cities, towns and villages in Malaysia are abuzz with the electoral campaigning well underway.

Here are five interesting facts from the 15th General Election we know so far.

There is no official Prime Minister candidate for Barisan Nasional (BN), yet

Traditionally, BN’s biggest component party UMNO will propose the party’s president as the PM candidate for the elections.

However, since the toppling of BN in the 2018 elections followed by a series of political crisis, UMNO vice-president Ismail Sabri has been the PM since August last year.

Ninth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Ismail Sabri, waving to the crowd in a limousine .
Ismail Sabri, the ninth Prime Minister of Malaysia, says he is the poster boy for Barisan National's 15th general election campaign. (Photo: Getty Images)

While Ismail Sabri has openly told the press that he is BN’s poster boy and candidate for PM, the BN coalition has not officially verified his claims or publicly announced their PM candidate.

The silence is unusual, considering that since Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s era, BN has proposed prime ministerial candidates at the forefront of their campaign.

Current UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is currently facing trial on 47 counts of criminal breach of trust — after being acquitted of 40 graft charges in September. Ahmad Zahid is also defending his Bagan Datuk parliamentary seat this elections.

Record-breaking highest in a few categories

At 945 parliamentary candidates, the 15th general elections is set to break record for having the highest number of parliamentary and independent candidates (108 people).

Meanwhile, setting the record again, is the oldest candidate – Mahathir Mohamad contesting at 97 years old. He beats the previous record, set by himself, at the last GE.

A picture of Malaysia's former prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, waving.
Tun Mahathir Mohammad is still running to become Prime Minister at 96 years old. (Photo: Getty Images)

The head turner however, are the 14 non-bumiputra candidates representing the pro-bumiputra party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and the pro-islamic state party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).

In the northern state of Perlis, Bersatu is fielding Siamese Pramoot Puan for the Indera Kayangan seat.

It has been reported that these candidates were from the associate wing of Bersatu and the non-Muslims PAS Supporters Congress (DHPP), in which non-Muslims are accepted as party members.

Weird names, social media influencers and celebrities color the ballot papers bright

The 15th general election isn't short on interesting names this time around.

When the name Too Gao Lan surfaced as a candidate on social media, the Chinese community laughed their heads off.

Too Cheng Huat, an independent candidate for the Batu parliamentary seat, had chosen a Cantonese profanity as his name on the voting paper.

The same goes for Choy San Yeh, which means God of Fortune in Cantonese, contesting in Seputeh. Choy was absent for the nomination due to COVID-19, and was represented by her sister.

Social activist Kwan Chee Heng, fondly known as Uncle Kentang (Uncle Potato), was also one of the hopefuls contesting under his nickname in Puchong.

Meanwhile, in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, social activist Rani Kulup walked to the nomination centre decked in a fiery red traditional Malay warrior attire, complete with the ‘tanjak’ headgear.

He and his supporters shouted to the slogans of “Dongibab” (don’t give up) and “Kipidap” (keep it up).

A picture of Malaysian media star, Rani Kulup, surrounded by people standing on a road.
Rani Kulup is running for a seat in Port Dickson. (Photo: Getty Images)

Widow campaigns through social media, (or not)

Puteri UMNO’s chief Zahida Zarik Khan, who is contesting in Padang Besar, Perlis, announced last week that she would be campaigning through social media as she was still in edah (mourning period), after her husband died on 20 August.

Edah spans four months and 10 days and is observed by a woman after the death of her husband or after a divorce.

However, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, better known as Dr Maza, then released a statement saying that women in edah must not campaign at all, because “in today’s context, election is a power struggle and not a continuation of an individual’s life”.

A panda promise

While most candidates offer development, infrastructure upgrade, youth empowerment and cultural preservation as their manifesto, one candidate caught the eye of the public when he promised to bring in two pandas from China should be given the mandate as a parliamentarian.

A composite of Taiping Zoo's welcome board with a panda eating bamboo.
Barisan National's Neow Choo Seong promises to bring in two pandas from China for Taiping Zoo if he wins. (Photo: Getty Images)

BN’s Neow Choo Seong told the media that his manifesto includes bringing in two pandas to Taiping Zoo, and highlighted that China loaned Malaysia two pandas in 2014 to commemorate four years of diplomatic relations.

A former diplomat, Neow gave up a high-flying career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to contest in this elections.

He used to serve in the Embassy of Malaysia in Caracas, Venezuela and Washington DC, the US.

Christine YP Cheah is an irreverent storyteller who works in the areas of development and sustainability. She is on a mission to address the elephants in the room, and to make politics interesting for young people.

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