Low uptake so far among Johoreans in Singapore to be postal voters

More than 1,000 Johoreans currently in Singapore had registered to be postal voters. PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR - Only a tiny fraction of Singapore-based Johor voters have registered to become postal voters for the upcoming state election in Johor with just days before the registration deadline is closed this week, according to the new youth-based Muda party.

The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), which is is making its electoral debut at the March 12 poll, said on Wednesday (Feb 16) that more than 1,000 Johoreans currently in Singapore had registered to be postal voters - an option made available for the first time for Malaysians living in Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, as well as Kalimantan, which is the Indonesian part of Borneo.

This would mean that just over 1 per cent of the estimated 100,000 Johor voters currently working in Singapore had registered, the party said.

Registration with the Election Commission for those residing in Singapore is due to close on Friday.

"We would like to urge Malaysians living in Singapore to register now for a big change," Muda said. In a social media video earlier in the week, the party's president, Mr Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, made the same appeal, telling Johor voters that it would take just five minutes to register.

The postal vote service for residents in neighbouring countries is one of several electoral reforms taking effect with the Johor election. The EC previously allowed overseas postal voting only for those living in countries away from neighbouring regions.

Postal voting means that tens of thousands of Johor voters can still take part in the poll despite prolonged border closures. Malaysia and Singapore currently have a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, but quotas for such travel mean many are unable to secure bus tickets while the cost of a flight to Kuala Lumpur remains prohibitive for a majority of Johoreans working in Singapore.

Dr Sueanne Lim, a Johor voter in Singapore, said that she was excited to be able to take part in the poll despite not being able to return. "It's been so hard trying to get a VTL bus ticket home for the voting weekend," the 36-year-old physician told The Straits Times. 

Another Johor voter in Singapore, Mr Tong Yau Long, 46, believes many of his compatriots are not aware of the new rules.

"There is definitely a lack of awareness. There was no notification of any kind. One has to be very up to date on news or rely on word of mouth to know about this (postal voting)," he said.

Mr Tong was not aware about the election until recently and was trying to register before the Friday deadline.

"I am anxious as I just realised about this (postal voting) and have not managed to register. Overall I feel there was a lack of initiatives from the EC in actively bringing awareness to overseas citizens," the sales manager, referring to the Election Commission, told ST.

The EC only announced the new rules on postal votes last week. Apart from the postal votes, the Johor election will also see Malaysians aged 18 and above vote for the first time after a new lowered voting age came into effect in time for the election. It will also mark the debut of Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), in which eligible voters aged 18 and above will be automatically added to the electoral roll instead of having them register themselves.

All these new initiatives will add about 750,000 voters to the electoral roll in Johor. Voters aged between 18 and 20 will make up 175,000 of them.

About 2.6 million people will be eligible to vote during the Johor elections, which will kick off with nominations on Feb 26.

The election is expected to be a crowded affair with current allies in government, Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional, squaring off against each other. On the other side of the fence, the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) is facing its own challenges. Muda is cooperating with PH in the poll, and will contest in at least six of the 56 seats at stake in the state assembly.

But PH is expected to face overlapping contests with its former leader Mahathir Mohamad's Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) and Parti Warisan, the former ruling party in Sabah, also contesting in Johor.

Malaysia yesterday recorded a new high in Covid-19 cases, logging 27,831 in the last 24 hours. The Health Ministry said 99.65 per cent of these cases were asymptomatic or suffering mild symptoms.

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