With elections just round the corner, you are bound to hear lots of interesting comments. If you find the jargon a little hard to understand, the glossary provided below should come in useful.
Ballot papers Slips of paper with the candidates’ names and symbols and a blank space for voters to indicate their choice by marking an X.
By-election A special election held between regular elections in order to fill a vacancy caused by death, resignation or disqualification.
Ceramah Talks given by candidates and key political figures as opposed to public rallies, which are banned.
Coalition An alliance of parties.
Constituency The electoral unit into which voters are organised to pick a representative in the Dewan Rakyat or a state legislative assembly.
Dark horse A relatively unknown candidate who gets an unexpected amount of support or even wins.
Election abuses Incidents of corruption of the electoral process that include bribery, the intimidation of voters and the spreading of damaging rumours about candidates.
Election Commission The independent body that conducts parliamentary and state elections, registers voters and maintains electoral rolls.
Election petition The results of an election can be challenged in court. A petition can be presented within a specified period on various grounds, including bribery, intimidation or any misconduct that may have affected the results and non-compliance with the election laws and regulations.
Election manifesto A party’s official position in a general election, which includes its promises to voters.
Electorate A body of registered voters that will decide who is to represent them.
Fence-sitter A person that has yet to decide whom he will vote for.
Grassroots The rank-and-file of a party or voters that are not politically active.
Gerrymander To divide electoral districts in such a way that it favours one party.
Incumbent An elected representative who is seeking re-election in the same constituency.
Independent candidate One who is not running on any party ticket.
Majority rule A political principle that empowers a majority of 50% or more of a group to make decisions binding the whole.
Mosquito party A derogatory term commonly used to imply that a party is small and insignificant.
Parliamentary election The election of representatives in the Dewan Rakyat for all parliamentary constituencies in Malaysia, conducted simultaneously in the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak.
Party-hopping The practice of changing one’s party affiliation, especially when one is an elected representative.
Play politics To place self or partisan gain above larger party or public interests.
Polling day The day when the electorate cast their votes.
Political mileage The advantage gained in politics by capitalising on a particular situation.
Political suicide An unpopular action or stand that will mean the end of one’s political career and/or defeat at the polls.
Popular votes The actual number/percentage of votes garnered as opposed to the number/percentage of seats won.
Postal voting Not all voting is done in person at the polling centre. Those who qualify (police and military personnel, diplomats, students abroad, etc) can mail their ballot papers to the returning officers.
Returning officer An official, usually the district officer, appointed by the Election Commission in each parliamentary constituency to oversee the elections.
Ruling party The party that wins the elections and forms the government.
State election The election of representatives for state constituencies to the state legislative assembly.
Strange bedfellows When parties or individuals that usually do not see eye-to-eye enter into a partnership, the expression used is “politics makes strange bedfellows”.
Two-thirds majority It is commonly accepted that the winning party need this sort of results to form an effective government, linked possibly to the fact such numbers are required in the Dewan Rakyat to pass changes to the Federal Constitution.
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