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Friday, August 11, 2017

Warisan queries delay in tabling new Sabah seats

Warisan number two Darrell Leiking says delay in getting new electoral boundaries approved by Parliament could even prevent state polls from being held during GE14.
PETALING JAYA: Parti Warisan Sabah has taken the Election Commission (EC) to task over its failure to table changes to electoral boundaries which would see more than a dozen new state seats in Sabah.
Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking said the delay was baffling as the EC had rushed to push a constitutional amendment last year in the state assembly to increase the number of state seats from 60 to 73.
Leiking, who is also Penampang MP, said this was in contrast to how the Dewan Rakyat had passed changes to Sarawak’s constituencies two years ago.
“When the Sarawak assembly approved 11 additional seats in 2015, Parliament passed the new electoral boundaries a few months later,” he told FMT.
He added that there should not be any reason for the EC to take so long to bring the matter to Parliament, especially since no party in Sabah had legally challenged the addition of the 13 seats.
Leiking said that last December, Sabah deputy speaker Johnny Mositun was quoted as saying that the proposal to increase the number of seats was expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in March, but even up till Thursday, the last day of the current sitting, no such debate had taken place.
“To me, the initial rush to add the 13 seats and the fact that it has gone quiet since then, raises several questions,” he said.
“From a legal point of view, if the state constitution had gazetted the 13 new seats, can an election be held if the new boundaries have not been approved by Parliament?”
Leiking added that as long as the new boundaries were not approved by Parliament, the state assembly could not be dissolved, eliminating the likelihood of a snap state election.
“Also, the state election could only take place after the next general election (GE14) if the national polls are called before the boundaries are passed.”
Earlier this year, speculation had intensified that Sabah would hold snap polls after the idea was reportedly bandied about following Sarawak Barisan Nasional’s (BN) victory in last year’s state election.
Leiking also said the delay in finalising the boundaries put the opposition at a disadvantage.
“How can we properly prepare for elections when we have no certainty or finality as to where the new voting centres and electoral boundaries will be?” he said.
“It makes strategising much harder and even worse, it deprives voters their constitutional right to decide which constituencies they want to vote in,” he added.
Whatever the rationale for the delay, Leiking said the EC should explain why it was taking so long to bring the matter to the Dewan Rakyat.
Last month, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) challenged the BN to dissolve the Sabah state assembly if it could not resolve the year-long delay in approving the 13 new state seats.
SAPP president Yong Teck Lee said the unexplained and undue delay over the approval of the new seats by the assembly had raised concerns that internal bickering was undermining the Sabah government’s ability to function. - FMT

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