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Saturday, October 31, 2020

ERC man moots 3 ways to have polls, avoid emergency


Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) member and political scientist Wong Chin Huat has suggested three ways elections can be held without the executive resorting to an emergency proclamation.

This follows Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's televised address to explain his logic for seeking an emergency proclamation to avoid by-elections and the Sarawak election due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"If Bersatu stays out of the Batu Sapi by-election, like how Pakatan Harapan stayed out of the Chini by-election, then even if some minor parties or independent candidates take part, the by-election will be a non-event," said Wong.

The Batu Sapi by-election is slated for Dec 5. So far, Harapan, BN and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) have vowed to stay out of the by-election in hope that Warisan, which won the seat in 2018, would be given a walkover.

The Batu Sapi constituency is part of the Sandakan district, which as of noon yesterday, registered 875 new Covid-19 cases over a 14-day period.

Secondly, Wong said that an emergency proclamation need not be sought now to prevent the Sarawak state elections since legally the election can be delayed up until Aug 5.

"If Gabungan Parti Sarawak serves a full term, why do we need an emergency for 10 months?" asked Wong.

Article 21(4) of the Constitution of Sarawak stipulates that an election for the Sarawak legislative assembly must be held within sixty days of the date of the dissolution.

The Sarawak legislative assembly will automatically dissolve on June 7 next year.

Lastly, Wong argued that some countries such as South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand have shown that there are mechanisms to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Wong said that there can be extensive facilities for absentee voting to reduce crowds at polling stations and prevent inter-state or inter-district travel.

"There can be televised debates between party leaders and free airtime for all candidates in all constituencies to replace rallies and door-to-door canvassing.

"And have rigorous enforcement of Covid-19 SOPs for VVIPs," said Wong.

Wong is a member of the ERC that was set up by the previous prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The ERC had submitted 49 recommendations to the current prime minister to overhaul the election system, which includes a closed-list proportional representation system to replace the current first-past-the-post system.

By late November, the ERC will disbanded. - Mkini

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