Malaysia declares May 9 election day a holiday after outcry

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Malaysian prime minister on Wednesday declared voting day on May 9 a public holiday after a decision to hold elections on a workday triggered complaints that it would deter mainly opposition supporters.

The surprise move is seen as a bid to ease public anger a day after the Election Commission announced that voting will be held on a Wednesday, departing from the norm of having it on a weekend.

The weekday vote triggered a flurry of complains that it would deter thousands of Malaysians from returning to their hometown to vote. Some companies responded by giving their employees days off and offering to pay for their travel back home to vote. The hashtag "PulangMengundi" (Go home to vote) trended on Twitter, with many Malaysians offering financial assistance and car pool to those travelling back to vote.

Critics have said the weekday vote plus a shorter campaign period could lower voter turnout and dent support for the opposition led by former Prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was Asia's longest serving leader before he retired in 2003.

The weekday vote would still make it difficult for some half a million Malaysians working in Singapore to return and cast the ballot.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's office said May 9 will be a public holiday so that "Malaysians can fulfill their duties as voters."

The Election Commission has said 14.94 million people are eligible to vote, including 1.7 million new voters. It set an 11-day campaign period, shorter than the 15 days for the 2013 polls. It didn't give a reason why the vote would be held on a workday, the first time in nearly two decades.

Past Malaysian elections were mostly held on weekends but weekday votes are not unprecedented. National polls in 1995 and 1999 under Mahathir were held on Mondays.

Najib, 64, is seeking a third term in office and under pressure to improve his ruling coalition's performance after support eroded in the last two elections. He has been dogged by a massive corruption scandal involving the 1MDB state investment fund, which is under investigation in the U.S. and other countries for alleged cross-border embezzlement and money laundering.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Related News

Official: Indonesian family that joined IS now in...

Aug 11, 2017

Indonesia's deputy foreign minister says a Jakarta family who joined the Islamic State group in...

Indonesia clinic gives relief to Muslims with...

Aug 16, 2017

A clinic in Indonesia is offering laser removal of tattoos for free, providing relief to Muslims...

Indonesia president: Spread wealth, protect...

Aug 16, 2017

Indonesia's president vows a fairer distribution of the nation's wealth and a renewed commitment to...

Myanmar faces anger from Muslim world over...

Sep 4, 2017

A Nobel laureate and Muslim nations in Asia criticized Myanmar's persecution of its Rohingya Muslim...

Indonesia raises Bali volcano alert to highest...

Sep 22, 2017

Indonesian authorities have raised the alert level for the Mount Agung volcano on the tourist...

Bali volcano eruption fears spark exodus of more...

Sep 24, 2017

More than 35,000 people have fled a menacing volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali,...

Sign up now!