EC: Batu Sapi by-election to proceed with strict SOPs

Polling day is on Dec 5 with nomination on Nov 23


THE Election Commission (EC) has decided to proceed with the Batu Sapi by-election amid recent spikes in Covid-19 infections, particularly in Sabah, with polling day scheduled for Dec 5, 2020.

The seat fell vacant after its incumbent, Datuk Liew Vui Keong died of lung infection on Oct 2.

EC chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh (picture) said the commission has come up with a proposed guideline to restrict crowd movement during the campaign phase to avoid triggering another wave of Covid-19 cases.

He said activities on the prohibited list include home visits and public walkabouts by candidates and party supporters. This will be in line with standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the federal government, which placed Sabah under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).

“Candidates can campaign online, via social media, or by distributing campaign pamphlets via mail. Similarly, any campaigning activities, which involve party supporters or members of the party’s election machinery gathering in large numbers, will also not be allowed,” Abdul Ghani told a media conference in Putrajaya yesterday.

The proposed guidelines will be vetted by the National Security Council and Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob for approval.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin last week admitted that the recent Sabah state elections were one of the leading causes for the massive surge in Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases.

After posting single- to double- digit rises for weeks in July, the country recorded 691 new cases on Oct 6, 10 days after the state polls were held.

The campaign trail witnessed huge gatherings of party supporters from both sides of the political divide, many of whom were transported from the peninsula to Sabah by their parties.

Over 300 returnees have tested positive for Covid-19 since their arrival back from the Borneo state.

The mass interstate movement has forced local authorities to step up containment efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, which eventually leads to the enforcement of the CMCO in Selangor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur effective today until Oct 27.

The CMCO in Sabah began yesterday and will end on Oct 25.

Abdul Ghani said the Batu Sapi by-election would adhere to strict social distancing, wearing of face masks, the use of hand sanitisers, body temperature screenings and walk-in registrations in all related activities.

“It will be strictly enforced throughout the electoral process, including the briefing for EC personnel, the nomination of candidates, printing and checking of the voting ballots, removing and counting of postal votes, and examining the contents of the ballot boxes, among others,” the chairman said.

The by-election will involve 837 EC personnel who will be tasked to monitor the entire electoral process. All personnel and volunteers will comprise local people to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Abdul Ghani said the by-election would cost the EC approximately RM5 million.

Nomination day will take place on Nov 23, with early voting scheduled for Dec 1. The campaign period has been set for 12 days.

The Sabah state election, which took place on Sept 26, saw the ruling Perikatan Nasional government through its local alliance Gabungan Rakyat Sabah win 38 seats of the 73 contested state legislative assembly seats to form the new state government.