ERC lauds proposal for new law to delay polls

A specific provision can be included in Constitution and Elections Act to empower EC to take necessary actions

by FARA AISYAH / pic by TMR FILE 

THE Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) welcomes the government’s proposal for a new and specific act to postpone elections during a pandemic such as Covid-19.

Its president Tan Sri Ab Rashid Ab Rahman said it is timely for a comprehensive review to enable elections — whether by-elections or general elections — to be postponed during crises including health crises, chaos and natural disasters or situations that threaten national security.

“For this purpose, a specific provision can be included in the Federal Constitution and the Elections Act 1958 to empower the Election Commission (EC) to take necessary actions in the event of any crisis that is detrimental to the country.

“ERC is of the view that several new provisions should be introduced with the aim of overcoming situations that could disrupt the democratic electoral environment that could erode freedom, justice and transparency,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Ab Rashid added that the current legal framework only gives EC the power to manage elections where it is obliged to hold elections when there is a vacancy.

However, he said there is no provision to postpone the election as EC is required to hold elections to fill the vacancies that exist within 60 days.

“Therefore, the time has come for a new provision to include new articles or sub-articles in the Federal Constitution or a new section in the Elections Act 1958 to empower the EC, which is entrusted to conduct and manage elections in this country,” Ab Rashid added.

He further said ERC also welcomes efforts to strengthen other laws, including the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342), during the health crisis as stated by Health Ministry DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah last week.

Last week, ERC submitted a report to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, proposing for the EC to develop specific guidelines related to election management in emergencies as one of the improvement elements of preparedness in the face of unforeseen situations, including natural disasters, riots or lockdowns such as the Movement Control Order.

“Following the report, the ERC is ready to assist the government and all stakeholders in creating new provisions related to the need to postpone elections during the crisis, thus making the country’s electoral management system more effective and fair,” Ab Rashid said.

However, on Monday, Law Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said in a written reply to Padang Terap MP Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid that establishing a new act to postpone an election is against the Federal Constitution.

“Establishment of a bill (Rang Undang-Undang) for postponing an election during this Covid-19 pandemic is inconsistent and contrary to the Federal Constitution, while to amend the Federal Constitution, the support of 2/3 (two-thirds of all) MPs is required.

“The government may propose to postpone an election if this pandemic is thought to be declared an emergency as provided under Article 150(1) of the Federal Constitution,” he said.