Melaka could be template for pandemic GE

Current health situation is not suitable for an election although 90% of the population is expected to be fully inoculated soon


THE prospect of holding an election while Covid-19 is still a threat to the population has stirred up debate on whether health or politics should take precedence.

The dissolution of the Melaka State Assembly on Tuesday has raised the spectre of a new wave of infections if another state election is held during the current pandemic, something that happened as a direct result of the Sabah state election in 2020.

The Election Commission (EC) can decide whether an election within the next 60 days is necessary or not, but it has not made any indication of what its decision will be.

Analysts said the same consequences of the Sabah election that nearly collapsed the national healthcare system are bound to happen again in Melaka if the lessons learnt are not applied.

Universiti Utara Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) should not only be tailored to control voters’ movements, but should also focus on managing the activities of political parties ahead of the election day.

“The (EC) needs to set guidelines for parties to campaign. They can no longer hold talks on the ground to avoid congregation.

“Maybe candidates can opt for campaigns on social media although this would affect political parties who rely on the conventional method of physically reaching out to voters in the constituencies,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday.

Mohd Azizuddin, however, noted that if the state election proceeds, it will provide a clear picture of how a general election (GE) can be held amid the endemic.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Izani Mohd Zain said the current health situation is not suitable for an election although 90% of the population is expected to be fully inoculated soon.

He said the country and economy are still transitioning to a recovery phase after a major downturn that dragged the process.

“Even if it is safe to hold a by-election, they need to be cautious because anything could happen from a single event.”

Despite the signing of the recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government and Pakatan Harapan (PH), a three-cornered fight is still likely to take place as the MoU only focuses on cooperation at the federal level.

Mohd Azizuddin said the partnership is not valid during a by-election and political rivalry will take place to determine the party that will dominate the state.

“At least three parties will contest, namely PH, Barisan Nasional (BN) and Perikatan Nasional (PN). I am not surprised if Parti Pejuang Tanah Air and Parti Warisan Sabah unite and field candidates,” he said.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun, however, said the MoU may lead to confusion among voters as the government and PH have chosen to cooperate on the federal level, but will compete on a state level.

“In theory both sides could slug it out just like any other state election, but of course the voters will be confused.

“Voters will get ambivalent and that will hurt PH more than it does towards the government,” he told TMR.

Oh also expects a three-cornered fight to take place during the state election but between Umno, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PH.

“Bersatu could only win if it coordinates seat allocation with Umno, which would reduce the likelihood of a three-cornered fight,” he added.

Four assemblymen withdrew support for the state government on Tuesday, which led to a dissolution of the Melaka state government.

A state election should be held within 60 days as stipulated in the Election Act 1958, but the decision still lies in the hands of the EC.

Meanwhile, PH presidential council said Melaka Governor Tun Mohd Ali Rustam should have followed the state’s constitution and met with 15 of the state assemblymen who have won the majority before making his decision to consent to the dissolution of the state’s 14th Legislative Assembly.

The statement was signed by PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and DAP president Lim Guan Eng, as well as Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau of United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation.

“Unfortunately, his action not only violated the precedent for Melaka itself where in 2020 the advice of its then Chief Minister Adly Zahari to dissolve the state assembly was not accepted after losing the majority. In fact, it does not align with the Federal Court’s precedent in the case involving (Datuk Seri Mohammad) Nizar Jamaluddin and (Datuk Seri Dr) Zambry Abdul Kadir, where majority support can be determined outside of the legislative assembly,” they said.

They added that the state assembly’s dissolution had also paved the way for a state election, which could endanger the public’s lives during the pandemic that has yet to be fully contained.

Pejuang also condemned Umno’s move that has now mandated for a by-election to be held in the state.

Party president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said the state should recall the dissolution of the state assembly and the prospects of a by-election.

“Umno and PN leaders at the federal and state level should put aside the party’s and their personal interest, stop the toxic politics and put the interests of the people first,” he said in a statement.