KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Election Commission on Tuesday (Apr 24) issued new guidelines relating to campaign materials for the 14th general election.
Only images of party presidents and deputy presidents - or their equivalents - can be used on campaigning material.
This effectively rules out pictures of Pakatan Harapan chairman Mahathir Mohamad on most posters and banners in campaigning for the May 9 polls - a move the opposition decried as a deliberate decision targeted at the 92-year-old former prime minister.
"Through impossible rules such as permits for campaign materials and the banning of Dr M’s images on Pakatan’s campaign materials, it aims to curtail his influence in GE14," said Selangor state speaker and incumbent state assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh, who is from the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).
"An impartial commission should not be meddling or deciding what goes on or off the parties’ campaign materials."
However, Dr Mahathir's face can still be featured on posters in Langkawi in his capacity as a candidate for the parliamentary seat.
Malaysia's longest serving prime minister is now with the opposition after quitting the United Malaysia National Organisation (UMNO) following a falling out with Prime Minister Najib Razak over state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Dr Mahathir has accused the government of being afraid of his influence.
The opposition party he helped form, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, was provisionally disbanded by the Registrar of Societies (RoS) two days before Parliament was dissolved, although the Kuala Lumpur High Court has since granted a stay of the order, allowing the party to challenge the RoS' decision.
In response to the Election Commission's new rules, electoral reform group BERSIH 2.0 questioned why the guidelines are needed now, when there have been no problems with featuring other party members in campaign materials in past general elections.
“BERSIH 2.0 holds that the sudden imposition of these new regulations, without consultation with all stakeholders, at the eleventh hour of nomination day, as unreasonable, unfair and a violation of the freedom of expression of political parties,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We call on the EC to stop such arbitrary amendments of the regulations and urge the EC to consult all stakeholders before any future amendments.”