Now is not the time for elections

We should instead be focusing on containing the Covid-19 resurgence and strengthening our economy

pic by BERNAMA

OUR country is in the middle of another political uncertainty. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim made an announcement last week that he had obtained a majority support to form a new government.

But nothing is certain in politics. For all we know, we could end up with a snap election if the situation remains unresolved.

The recently concluded Sabah state election is the case in point. It was triggered following Perikatan Nasional’s political ruse in enticing “kataks” to join them. Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had little choice, but to call for the dissolution of the state assembly.

However, I strongly believe that now is not the time for any further elections.

I was in Sabah for over two weeks during the election period. I was based in Tawau to assist DAP’s candidate Justin Wong for the N69 Sri Tanjong constituency.

As we know, Tawau was one of the Covid-19 red zones leading up to election day.

Midway through the campaign, we had to cancel most of the campaigning activities which involved physical contacts, such as walkabouts and ceramahs. This greatly hindered our ability to reach out to voters.

Many local businesses were fearful of the surge in Covid-19 cases. I noticed that many shops in Tawau were either voluntarily closed or limited their operations as the number of cases increased.

Some food stalls stopped their dining-in service and only allowed takeaways. Several schools and markets were closed by the local authority, and the local authority eventually made a regulation requiring shops to close at 6pm.

I was also told that many locals started heading out of Tawau to other cities in anticipation of a lockdown.

This was indeed the reversal of the call to “balik undi”.

When I arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Sept 23, there were no health screenings at all in the airport. I could walk from the arrival gate to my car without being stopped or any questions asked.

The mandatory testing only started on Sept 27, a day after the election.

It was no coincidence that the Enhanced Movement Control Order and mandatory testing were only imposed officially a day after the Sabah election.

It was clear that the government was holding it back, despite many of the restrictions, such as roadblocks and shortening of business hours, having already started gradually a week before.

Having an election during a pandemic such as Covid-19 is a serious threat to public health and safety. The Sabah state election may have escalated the recent resurgence in Covid-19 cases throughout Malaysia.

Election would not be “free” under such circumstances because public health is at stake. Voters would rightly not come out to vote due to fear, resulting in a low voter turnout as in the case of Sabah.

As I have mentioned, the ongoing political uncertainty could lead to a snap election. In fact, the prime minister himself has said that he may call for an early election if his coalition wins in Sabah.

Additionally, the Sarawak state election is also due soon.

Now is not the time for elections. I urge all parties to not take such risks. We should instead be focusing on containing the Covid-19 resurgence and strengthening our economy.

Khoo Poay Tiong
MP of Kota Melaka

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.