Malaysia’s government declares polling day a public holiday for voters to ‘fulfil responsibilities’

The Prime Minister’s Office announced polling day, May 9, to be a public holiday.

The federal government has officially declared May 9, the polling day for the 14th general election (GE14), a public holiday.

In a statement on Wednesday (Apr 11), the Prime Minister’s Office said the additional public holiday was introduced to allow Malaysian citizens to fulfil their responsibilities as voters.

“The declaration on the public holiday is made based on Section 8 of the Public Holidays Act 1951 for Peninsular Malaysia and the Labuan Federal Territory,” said the statement.

For Sabah and Sarawak, the respective state governments would have to declare the date a public holiday based on their own state holidays ordinance.

The statement was delivered following the announcement made on Tuesday (Apr 10) by the Election Commission (EC) with regards to the date for GE14 polling day.

The EC also announced that nominations will be held on Apr 28 while advance voting is on May 5 for military and police personnel as well as voters living abroad, reported The Star Online.

Political parties are hence given a 11-day campaign period, which is four days more than the previous general election.

A report by The Malay Mail Online said the announcement that polling will be on a Wednesday incited immediate controversy.

It also heated up debate on whether the decision would discourage Malaysians from voting – particularly those from Sabah and Sarawak who travel to the peninsula to work.

In response, some firms have granted their staff incentives such as declaring three days of company holidays and offering to pay for their workers’ travel expenses to encourage them to vote.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Malaysia’s polling day has found itself taking place in the awkward middle of the week.

The first Malaysian general election in 1959 happened on Aug 19, which was a Wednesday.