The 15th general election (GE15) will likely see a low turnout of voters if it is held in the near future and in haste, several analysts say.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, they said the state elections in Melaka and Johor had shown that many were still concerned about the Covid-19 situation, with outstation voters reluctant to return to their home towns to vote.
They also spoke of a growing disenchantment with politicians who chase power and positions without taking into account the well-being of the people.
Azmil Mohd Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia said it was not unusual for state and by-elections to have lower voter turnouts, especially if they are held in a sudden manner.
Nevertheless, he cautioned the government and political parties against taking the matter lightly, saying they should instead boost their efforts to increase the voter turnout for future polls.
“The pandemic situation has made many uneasy about the risk of infection, and voters are also tired of parties and politicians who only appear interested in power,” he told MalaysiaNow.
There is also the question of motivating outstation voters to return for elections, exacerbated by the ineffective campaign narratives put forth by a number of parties, he said.
The Johor state election on March 12, for example, witnessed a voter turnout of just 54.92%. At the Melaka election last November, meanwhile, only 65.85% of voters turned out to vote.
The Election Commission had targeted a voter turnout of 70% for both elections.
Analyst Oh Ei Sun said a low voter turnout was a cause for concern for any democratic country, adding however that it was a voter’s right to refrain from voting in order to express dissatisfaction towards current political developments.
“A large segment of those who did not vote may have been Pakatan Harapan (PH) supporters or pro-opposition voters who were disappointed with the Sheraton Move which saw the collapse of the government that they voted in.
“Many of them lost any hope of restoring that government, for example when the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration was toppled last year – they began feeling that there was no point in voting,” Oh, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, told MalaysiaNow.
The post of prime minister returned to Umno after PH rejected an offer by Muhyiddin Yassin promising to undertake a list of reforms long championed by the coalition in exchange for its support to prevent the collapse of the PN government in the midst of the pandemic.
PH later signed a memorandum of understanding with Ismail Sabri Yaakob who was appointed as prime minister after Muhyiddin resigned, a move which Oh said could have left voters even more disappointed.
“Although they are loath to turn out on polling day, they will not vote for Barisan Nasional or PN either,” he said.
“This group would prefer to just stay at home.”
Observer James Chin said if GE15 is held next year, more voters might turn out given that the Covid-19 situation is expected to ease by the end of this year.
“We also need to monitor the Covid-19 developments in Malaysia as this will affect the atmosphere of GE15,” Chin of Australia’s University of Tasmania said.
Adding that voter turnouts vary from election to election, he said low numbers were not necessarily a cause for concern.
“Covid-19 has changed not just the character of elections, but also the way that parties campaign,” he said.