KUALA LUMPUR: THE 13th General Election will see some firsts. For starters, it will be the first general election to use indelible ink to mark voters to prevent multiple casting of votes.
The Election Commission (EC) will have on standby 230,000 bottles of the ink which requires every individual who wants to vote to have his or her left index finger marked before the ballot paper is issued.
Voters who decline to have their finger marked will not be issued a ballot paper.
Also for the first time in the history of elections in Malaysia, all media personnel, including journalists, photographers, cameramen and technicians, working outside their registered areas of voting are eligible to apply for early voting.
Another first is the eligibility of Malaysians abroad to vote.
Despite the eligibility of between 200,000 and 300,000 Malaysian abroad to vote, only 2,954 such voters can vote in this round. The rest did not register before the April 3 deadline.
This election will also record an interesting first -- the use of ballpoint pens. In previous elections, pencils were used. A total of 100,000 ballpoint pens have been purchased by the EC for this purpose.
The budget allocated for the election will also be the highest in the nation's election history, at RM400 million.
This is a 400 per cent increase when compared to the first general election held in 1959 which cost only about RM1 million.
The campaign period of 15 days this time around is also the longest in recent times.
The last time such a lengthy campaign period was held was back in 1982 when the-then Barisan Nasional chairman, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, helmed elections for the first time for the ruling coalition.
The longest campaign periods for general elections held in Malaysia were 34 days in the first three editions in 1959, 1964 and 1969.
The number of voters eligible this time will also be the highest, at 13.27 million, of whom 12,992,661 are ordinary voters and 275,341 early voters.
This is an increase of 2,345,883 voters compared with 2008 which had 10,922,139 voters.
Between the 2008 general election and this one there is a 17.68 per cent increase in new voter registration.
Some attribute this to heightened awareness among Malaysians to exercise their ballot power but the figures are not far from the increase of newly registered voters in the 1959 general election.
The 1959 general election saw 2,171,097 new voters being registered, recording a 69.62 per cent jump.
This figure doubled the 1.28 million voters eligible to vote in the 1955 pre-independence Federal Legislative Council elections.
The other first is Malaysians abroad now can vote, provided they have registered with the EC before April 3.
Another first is that the period between elections is also the longest.
The last election was held on March 8, 2008 and the current election will be held on May 5, this year. The time lapse between the two general elections will be five years, one month and 26 days.
The last time such a long period occurred was between the 1969 and 1974 elections at five years and three months.
However, at that time, the lengthy period was due to the suspension of Parliament following the May 13 riots that led to the formation of the National Operations Council (NOC).
From 1969 to 1971, the NOC governed the country in lieu of the elected government. In 1971, the NOC ended with the restoration of Parliament.
The other firsts involves changes to the election process which include:
NO presence within 100m of a nomination centre;
NO pondok panas (political parties' camps) within 50m of voting centres;
NO loitering within 50m of voting centres. Only voters are allowed;
CANDIDATES cannot withdraw from contesting after nomination;
OBJECTION period on nomination day abolished;
UNOBSTRUCTED view of ballot counting for candidates' agents;
THIRD party allowed to accompany physically challenged candidate; and,
LOCAL and foreign non-governmental organisations allowed as election observers.