(File pix) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak giving his speech on the dissolution of Parliament in Putrajaya yesterday. With him is Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Bernama Photo

MALAYSIA is set to head to the polls in what is expected to be the most intense and keenly fought election in the country’s history.

Billed as the “Mother of all elections”, the battle line has been drawn and the next few weeks will see fierce lobbying among candidates, bringing along drama and excitement in politics.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the dissolution of Parliament effective today at a special press conference in his office shortly before prayers.

He had an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V to seek the ruler’s consent to dissolve Parliament.

The government can now seek a fresh mandate from the people through the 14th General Election. State governments have also been advised to seek consent from their respective rulers and governors to dissolve their state legislative assemblies.

This is the first step in the process of getting 14,968,304 registered voters (as of the fourth quarter of last year) to cast their ballots when polling is held, as stipulated under Article 55 of the Federal Constitution.

At stake will be 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats (except for the Sarawak legislative assembly, whose term will end in 2021).

This also marks the second time that Najib is leading Barisan Nasional towards election since taking over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2009.

The Election Commission (EC) is expected to meet in the next one or two days, or possibly early next week, to fix the date for nomination and polling days.

According to the Federal Constitution, a general election must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of Parliament.

The law stipulates that the earliest nominations can be held four days after the dissolution of Parliament or state assembly, while the earliest polling date is seven days after nomination day.

In the last general election, Parliament was dissolved on April 3, 2013, which was a Wednesday, and nomination day was set on April 20, a Saturday.

Polling was held on Sunday, May 5. In GE13, BN won 132 seats in Dewan Rakyat, while the opposition garnered 90. BN failed to regain power in Selangor and Penang, while Pas maintained its rule in Kelantan.

However, BN managed to wrest Kedah back from Pas. A total of 14,968,304 Malaysians will be eligible to cast their votes in GE14.

Women make up slightly more than half of the total, with 7.5 million registered voters (50.6 per cent), while men make up 7.3 million (49.9 per cent).

From the total, 6.2 million of the voters are in the 21-39 age group.

The EC has been allocated a RM402 million budget to hold the election. It will utilise 8,971 polling centres comprising 29,097 voting streams. There will also be 116,388 polling and counting agents, if all parties or candidates appoint their respective agents.

It was in GE13 that the indelible ink was first used to mark those who had cast their votes. Voters were also allowed to mark their ballot papers with ballpoint pens.

In GE14, the EC will introduce a “finger massage” procedure to prevent fraud. Clerks at the polling stations will examine voters’ fingers carefully to ensure that they do not wear gloves or have ink stains on them.

Security has also received priority, and will see some 60,000 police officers deployed throughout the election period.

This election will also see changes in 98 out of 165 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia, following a redelineation exercise — the first by the EC in 15 years. The changes vary from name changes to the redrawing of electoral borders.

Johor, Selangor and Perak have witnessed the most changes involving 19, 18 and 16 parliamentary seats, respectively.

Selangor has five name changes involving parliamentary seats and nine state seats.

-- Reporting by Johari Ibrahim, Nasharuddin Muhammad, Azura Abas, Mohd Husni Mohd Noor, Irwan Shafrizan Ismail, Hidir Reduan, Zanariah Abd Mutalib, Mohd Iskandar Ibrahim, Arfa Yunus, Luqman Arif Abdul Karim, Suhaila Shahrul Annuar, Fairuz Mohd Shahar, Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi, Noor Atiqah Sulaiman and Nursyahirah Marzuki

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