Three by-elections loom in Malaysia amid concerns about holding polls during Covid-19 pandemic

Under Malaysian law, a by-election must be held within 60 days, once Parliament or the state assembly has been informed of a seat vacancy. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - The deaths of two Malaysian lawmakers this week are set to trigger two by-elections, in Perak and Sabah states, even as nomination day for yet another one-seat election in Sabah is due next week.

MP Hasbullah Osman from Umno, who was the federal lawmaker for Gerik constituency in Perak, died on Monday (Nov 16) of a heart attack. He was 63.

On Tuesday (Nov 17), state lawmaker Manis Muka Mohd Darah, 65, from Parti Warisan Sabah, died. She represented the Bugaya state seat.

Malaysian media reports say she was suffering from kidney problems and had been admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital on Monday.

Another Sabah by-election is slated to be held on Dec 5, following the Oct 2 death of Warisan's Batu Sapi MP Liew Vui Keong, 60, a former law minister.

The nomination for the Batu Sapi federal ward will be held on Monday (Nov 23).

Under Malaysian law, a by-election must be held within 60 days once Parliament or the state assembly has been informed of a seat vacancy.

On the other hand, the Malaysian public has raised concerns on social media in the last two months over the holding of by-elections during the coronavirus pandemic.

This followed a huge spike in infections throughout Malaysia following the Sept 26 state polls in Sabah, which was blamed on the widespread mingling of politicians and voters in the two-week election campaign.

These political campaigners were blamed for spreading Covid-19 picked up in Sabah, which was then the epicentre of infections, when they returned to their home states.

Added to these worries are looming polls for Malaysia's biggest state by land area, Sarawak.

The Sarawak state election is slated to be held around the middle of next year, after the automatic dissolution of its state assembly in June upon reaching its five-year term. The state polls must then be held within 60 days of the dissolution.

The ruling coalition in Sarawak, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, can dissolve the legislature earlier.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in late October that both the Batu Sapi by-election and Sarawak polls cannot be postponed unless a state of emergency is declared.

This he said, was due to provisions in both the Federal Constitution and the Sarawak state Constitution.

He also said that voters cannot be stopped from travelling across state and district borders as they have the right to vote.

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