Protest held in Malaysia over holding general election during monsoon season

Protesters holding up placards and banners, calling on the authorities to prioritise lives rather than national polls. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - A group of people held a protest in downtown Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to oppose holding the general election during the monsoon season, amid widespread speculation that the polls would be held in November.

Many of the protesters held up placards and banners in Bahasa Malaysia that said "Nyawa dulu, baru PRU" (Lives first, then General Election), calling on the authorities to prioritise lives rather than national polls.

The gathering in front of Sogo mall was organised by the small Muda party, which is aiming to ally itself with the main opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Several police personnel were on hand to monitor the protest, but did not intervene.

The protest started at about 4pm and ended around 4.45pm.

Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who was among the speakers during the rally, said everyone should remember the devastation caused by last year's floods.

"In times of disaster, it is not the time for politics. If the elections are held during the floods, how can the people be taken care of," he asked.

"It is instead a time to focus and fight for the people on the ground. Ample flood preparations should be made instead of gearing for elections," he added.

Malaysia's 15th general election is not due until mid-September 2023, but a faction within the biggest political party Umno is pushing Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call for polls before the end of 2022, to take advantage of a disunited opposition.

PM Ismail said on Sept 17 that the country is "very close" to holding the next general election and he will soon be meeting top party members - including Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who faces corruption charges - to set a date for the election.

The government is slated to unveil the 2023 Budget on Oct 7, with expectations that Parliament will be dissolved soon after that for the 15th general election.

But there is also stiff opposition against the holding of elections so close to Malaysia's annual monsoon season between November and February that often leads to floods, inundating villages and cities alike.

At the height of the monsoon season in December 2021, some 60,000 people took shelter in relief centres, with at least 54 deaths recorded.

Parts of Penang state, including its airport and several villages, were flooded on Saturday after heavy rainfall.

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