Melaka elections – a repetition of the Sabah 2020 elections?

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The Melaka State Assembly was dissolved on October 4th, following the move by four assemblymen, Datuk Seri Idris Haron (BN-Sungai Udang), Datuk Nor Azman Hassan (BN-Pantai Kundor), Datuk Norhizam Hassan Baktee (Ind-Pengkalan Batu) and Datuk Noor Effandi Ahmad (Bersatu-Telok Mas), when they declared a loss of confidence in and subsequently withdrawing support for the leadership of Chief Minister Datuk Sulaiman Md Ali.

On the 5th of October 2021, the Election Commission (EC) received the official dissolution notification of the 14th Melaka Legislative Assembly. Following that, based on Article 19 (4) of the Melaka state constitution, the state will need to hold a snap election within 60 days. However, most Melakans are in favour of the election being postponed as they fear that an election at this point would cause a spike in the COVID-19 cases in the state and will undo all the progress that has been made over the last few months.

They fear that if an election is held now, then the incident that took place in Sabah may happen all over again. Malaysia held a state legislative election in Sabah just over a year ago, similarly triggered by defections that caused the collapse of the state government but the election had worsened the Covid-19 situation in the country that eventually snowballed and undid Malaysia’s initial success in containing the pandemic.

Malaysia has already been criticized for it’s handling of the pandemic and also ranked bottom 5 (#51) on Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, which measured how well countries are learning to “live with the virus”. We surely do not want to further damage the nations progress in terms of coping with the pandemic at this crucial point.

In response to this, the government will seek the views of experts before deciding if a state election can be held in Melaka, says Senior Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. He said they would seek the views of the National Security Council (NSC), Election Commission (EC) and Health Ministry, with Sabah as a case reference. He further added that the EC would discuss the SOP for the Melaka state election with the NSC before bringing the matter to the country’s top leadership.

Meanwhile, public health experts said the state election, when it takes place, must be held with strict SOP in place and handled differently from the Sabah elections last year. Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that the ministry will provide any assistance such as standard operating procedures (SOP) to the EC if the state election is going to be held. He explains that this issue involves not only public health factors, but it also involves legal and constitutional factors and therefore the Ministry will heed whatever decision the Cabinet makes and will ensure necessary SOPs are issued for the election, should there be one.

However, there is one legal loophole here, which is Melaka need not conduct an election just yet if a state wide emergency is proclaimed there. Drawing parallels with the situation in Sarawak, lawyer Joshua Wu said this would mean constitutional provisions requiring a state election be temporarily suspended. Another lawyer, Lim Wei Jiet, also said the Melaka polls have to be held, unless there is an emergency imposed such as that in Sarawak. Despite this possible alternative, most political analysts are of the opinion that the elections must go on, albeit with the necessary precautions in place.

Generally, holding elections at this time would be a selfish move, since the number of Covid-19 infections is still at a high level. Although the rate of Covid-19 vaccine among Malaysians is high, but the number of infected is still high. Daily active cases now number in the thousands with the daily death rate in excess of a hundred, therefore holding any sort of election at this point in time would be a suicidal move. The state government, as well as the federal government should highly consider the impacts that this election might have on the Covid-19 situation in Malaysia, not just from the political or legal standpoint, but also from the public health perspective.

 

References:

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-resilience-ranking/

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2021/10/07/govt-seeks-experts-views-on-melaka-election

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2021/10/07/fearing-case-spike-melakans-want-election-postponed

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/10/08/melaka-state-election-should-be-postponed-due-to-covid-19-situation-says-to/2011870

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/melaka-state-assembly-dissolved-paving-way-for-state-elections

https://www.theborneopost.com/2021/10/07/khairy-health-ministry-to-sit-with-cabinet-tomorrow-on-melaka-state-election/

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2021/10/06/statewide-emergency-in-melaka-will-suspend-an-election

Photo: NST

 

 

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