It is simply not the time for a nationwide general election!
It is really troubling that different leaders from UMNO are making public statements in trying to trigger a snap election as early as the first quarter of this year despite the increasing Covid-19 numbers nationwide.
This clearly shows how certain politicians put their personal interests and power over the well-being, safety and even economic struggles of the general population.
Having a conventional general election this year would be disastrous. We are still reeling from the health fallout from the recently concluded Sabah state elections, which sparked the third wave all around the country.
That should have served as a strong reminder that the Covid-19 virus does not take a leave of absence just so that an election can be held.
While we will receive our Covid-19 vaccine this year, we must remember that it is not a “silver bullet” that will end the nearly year-long pandemic.
On top of that, we will only be receiving them from different companies in batches, and depending on the National Vaccination Strategy, it will only be in 2022 when a minimum 70% population immunisation will be achieved, which will hopefully lead to some sort of herd immunity.
So, either way, we will need to wait until the majority of the population is immunised, and only then can a general election with necessary adjustments can even be considered.
Even so, we cannot afford to hold a conventional election during this period.
In preparation, the Election Commission (EC) needs this year at least to look into certain adjustments and procedural reforms for a nationwide election, especially in implementing the necessary safety SOPs, including absentee voting or extending postal voting to either vulnerable populations or those working or studying outside their home states, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.
Absentee or postal voting will make it easier for voters residing in other states to vote, instead of them having to return home and causing a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, as what has happened in Sabah.
This will require the EC to gazette out-of-region voters as advance voters eligible for postal voting under Regulation 3(1)(e) of the Elections (Advance Voting) Regulations 2012, in order to implement such a process.
I strongly believe that in view of the pandemic, it is the EC’s duty to make it as convenient and safe as possible for voters to cast their votes.
This includes safety and security measures to make sure any postal or absentee voting process or facilities must be tamper-proof, transparent, fair and convenient for eligible voters so that it will instil public confidence in the system itself.
Any inconveniences imposed on voters either directly or indirectly through unnecessary regulations or non–availability of facilities can be construed as a suppression of the fundamental rights of a voter.
Such reforms are important not just for the pandemic, but also to encourage more voter participation, especially for elections held in Sabah and Sarawak. Many Malaysians, including Sabahans and Sarawakians, are compelled to find jobs far from their homes due to unequal economic development among the states.
They should not be further burdened financially or put at risk during the Covid-19 pandemic by having to travel back to their constituencies just to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
Bersih Sarawak made an estimate that up to 20 per cent of eligible Sabahan and Sarawakian voters are living and working in Peninsular Malaysia and a good number of citizens from the peninsula are doing likewise in Sabah and Sarawak.
This is why I am calling on the EC to expedite the process for postal voting or any other means to enable Malaysians who want to vote to do so without much inconvenience.
Such reform is even more pertinent, especially with the upcoming Sarawak state elections that need to be held latest by August 2021.
While I do not believe we are ready for a nationwide election this year, the EC must be ready and should set a deadline for such a process to be implemented in time for the Sarawak state elections.
Dr Kelvin Yii is the Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.