Malaysia to hold state polls for Melaka on Nov 20

Polling will take place on Nov 20, 2021, after the 28-seat Melaka state assembly was dissolved on Oct 4. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will hold a state legislative election for the state of Melaka next month, the country's Election Commission (EC) announced on Monday (Oct 18), despite concerns over holding polls amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Melaka state elections will take place on Nov 20, EC chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh announced during a short press conference on Monday.

The polls will have a 12-day campaign period, with nominations starting on Nov 8. Standard operating procedures for preventing Covid-19 infections during the polls have yet to be finalised, the commission said.

According to the Ministry of Health, 91.4 per cent of adults in Melaka have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

About 68.6 per cent of Melaka's total population have been fully vaccinated.

The elections were called after the state assembly was dissolved on Oct 5 following the collapse of the Umno-led state government.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi both expressed their concerns about holding the polls amid the pandemic, which has just shown signs of easing in Malaysia.

Malaysia recorded 5,434 cases on Monday, the lowest number of daily infections recorded since June 28.

Malaysia's last state-wide elections took place for Sabah in September last year, and caused a surge of Covid-19 cases that never really abated, undoing the country's early success in containing the virus.

Melaka recorded 261 Covid-19 cases on Sunday, and its case incidence rate is close to the national average at 59.5 cases per 1,000 people.

The Melaka chapter of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition pact said on Monday that it will file a lawsuit to block the state election, and push for the state government to be formed through a majority of representatives in the current state assembly.

The state has 495,196 voters who are registered and eligible to take part in the elections, with 28 state legislative assembly seats up for grabs.

There will be 248 polling stations, and the election is expected to cost the government RM46 million (S$15 million).

Datuk Abdul Ghani said that the commission was targeting 70 per cent voter turnout in the election.

This Melaka election is likely to be the first election where the parties that currently form the federal government- Umno, Bersatu and PAS, contest against each other, resulting in a much more fragmented electoral field.

Umno has said it would contest polls on its own, leaving Bersatu and PAS to likely cooperate with each other under the Perikatan Nasional banner.

In the last election in 2018, PH won in Melaka for the first time, with a slim majority of only one seat.

However, it lost the state administration due to defections early last year after the PH government collapsed at the federal level due to defections.

This led to a new government being installed, led by Umno Chief Minister Sulaiman Md Ali, who commanded 17 seats in the assembly.

However, the new government lasted just over a year, as infighting within government lawmakers saw four assemblymen - led by Umno's Idris Haron - withdraw their backing for the chief minister early this month and attempt to form a new government along with PH.

However, instead of allowing for another change of government, Melaka Governor Ali Rustam consented to Mr Sulaiman's request for the assembly to be dissolved instead, leading to elections.

The Melaka elections could also pave the way for a poll for Malaysia's biggest state, Sarawak, where an election has been put off after an emergency was declared due to the Covid-19 situation.

Sarawak's five-year state assembly term ended in June, and it was supposed to hold an election by August, but an emergency was declared until Feb 2 next year.

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