Avoid snap polls amid Covid-19 crisis, urge Malaysian politicians and groups

Daily figures of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia hover at around 2,000 cases.
Daily figures of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia hover at around 2,000 cases.PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Malaysia, civil society groups and politicians say a snap election should be avoided.

Alliance for Safe Community chairman Lee Lam Thye said calling a general election now is not the right thing to do, with the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of abating.

"The situation is very serious, going by the daily figures, which hover at around 2,000 new cases. We should learn from the lessons of the Sabah election (in September). We ended up with cases going out of control despite the Health Ministry's best efforts," Tan Sri Lee said, adding that even standard operating procedures in place during the Sabah election did not help.

Mr Lee said that while elections are important, they can wait for now, as the next general election is scheduled only in 2023.

"Maybe once people have been vaccinated and the situation gets better after a few months, then we can consider. It is a matter of priority. Public health should come first, politics can wait, " he said.

Gerakan president Dominic Lau said calling a general election at this time would be inappropriate.

Datuk Dr Lau urged all parties to stop using coercive tactics to pressure Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin into calling for snap polls.

He said a general election could be considered after at least 50 per cent of the population had received the Covid-19 vaccine.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said the outcome of a snap poll at this time is likely to be a hung Parliament.

"We will be back to square one and there will be politicking and parties trying to overthrow each other, " he said.

A group of 14 opposition politicians said they were appalled by Umno's continuous demand to hold snap polls at a time when Covid-19 cases were spiralling and when several states were hit by severe floods.

They said barely three weeks after Parliament passed a budget of RM322.5 billion (S$105.8 billion) to fight Covid-19, Umno now wants to use fresh elections as a "trump card" to grab more power at the expense of Malaysians' well-being and safety.

"They have bared their true colours for all to see," the joint statement by 13 opposition Members of Parliament and a senator stated.

Among the MPs involved were Penampang MP Datuk Darell Leiking, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, Selangau MP Baru Bian and Pulai MP Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub, with the senator being Datuk Marzuki Yahya.

The commissioner of Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Mr Jerald Joseph, said the danger of a snap election is not during polling day itself but during the campaigning.

He said the Election Commission would have to come up with strict guidelines where everything is done online or with minimum movement of people by giving all parties free access to national television, news and radio.

He added that the pandemic is also a good opportunity to consider new methods of voting such as postal or online voting.

However, Mr Jerald pointed out that an election would be futile if there were no reforms.

"If whichever party wins and its members hop here and there, what is the point as all the efforts to choose a new government will again be wasted, " he added.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said that the party wanted a snap general election to be called despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Why must we be afraid to hold a general election during a pandemic? More than 30 countries have held general elections while facing the Covid-19 pandemic, Why is Malaysia the only country afraid of this?" Zahid said when opening the Bagan Datoh Umno general meeting over the weekend.