NOMINATION day for the Bukit Selambau by-election opened relatively calmly on 29 March 2009, a schoolday and work day here in Kedah. Journalists and the candidates’ supporters started trickling into the nomination centre, Sekolah Menengah Teknik Sungai Petani 1, from 7am.
There had been speculation that things could get chaotic, considering the Election Commission (EC) had confirmed on 28 March that it had received deposits for 14 candidates, including 12 independents.
Of course, all eyes on the Bukit Selambau state by-election have been focusing on the record-breaking number of independent candidates. The Pakatan Rakyat (PR), specifically component party Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), has been saying that the high number of independents is designed to split the votes for the opposition. Like clockwork, the Barisan Nasional (BN) has also been saying that they feel the high number of independents will benefit the BN.
These observations have led to rife speculation that many of the independents are “sponsored” by the BN, as articulated by PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, an accusation that the BN has strenuously denied.
The unprecedented number of candidates has also been a logistical nightmare for the EC. Today, on nomination day, Federal Reserve Unit officers and Black Marias lined the outside of the nomination centre. Independents entered through one path, PKR candidate S Manikumar through another, and BN’s Datuk S Ganesan through a third.
There was a sense of incredulity in the air while waiting for the final list of candidates to be announced. Journalists speculated on the symbols to be used for each candidate and the possibility, or impossibility, of identifying them in a lineup. When the EC finally announced the 15 candidates for the by-election, confusion reigned supreme as journalists tried to get quotes from as many candidates as possible.