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.