by ASILA JALIL / pic by BERNAMA
THE Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) has called for a holistic review of the current laws in the Federal Constitution to allow the postponement of any elections in the event of a health crisis that could threaten national security.
The committee’s chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman (picture) proposed for a special clause to be included in the Constitution which will allow the Election Commission (EC) to take necessary actions in election-related matters during a crisis.
“It is time for a holistic review on the current laws to enable the postponement of elections, be it the general election or a by-election, during a crisis including health crisis, chaos, natural disasters or situations that endanger national security.
“For this reason, a specific provision can be included in the Federal Constitution and the Election Act 1958 to give the EC the power to take necessary actions when there is a crisis that is detrimental to the country,” he said in a statement yesterday.
This was in response to the decision made by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Wednesday in declaring an emergency in Batu Sapi, Sabah, and effectively cancelling the upcoming by-election for the parliamentary seat.
Abdul Rashid lauded the move and viewed it as the right action to take during the current situation which could mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus and prevent a fourth wave.
He said although there is a need to uphold the rights provided by the Constitution especially in terms of a democratic election, there is also the need to prioritise the voters’ welfare and take every necessary action to lessen the impact of the pandemic.
The committee also supported Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s assurance that the Batu Sapi by-election will be held immediately “subject to the provisions in the Federal Constitution” once the pandemic ends.
“This shows that the democratic elections practised in the country will be protected. Therefore, the ERC is confident that a fair election platform will be provided when the by-election in the area is held after Covid-19 ends.
“Taking into account the five fundamentals tied to the decision to postpone the Batu Sapi by-elections, ERC is confident the EC has the time and space needed to update the mechanism and standard operating procedures to ensure a by-election during a crisis can be done effectively,” he said.
The Batu Sapi parliamentary seat fell vacant following the death of its incumbent Liew Vui Keong on Oct 2.
The EC had previously set Nov 23 for nomination, Dec 1 for early voting and Dec 5 for polling in the constituency’s by-election.
The seat for Gerik also fell vacant after the death of its MP Datuk Hasbullah Osman on Monday and another by-election is required for the Bugaya state seat after Manis Muka Mohd Darah died on Tuesday.