PETALING JAYA: Political analysts say Putrajaya should postpone the Gerik and Bugaya by-elections until there is a drop in Covid-19 infections, while health experts say a review of hygiene and safety protocols is needed before elections are held.
Political analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said the people would understand if the by-elections were postponed.
After all, he said, a Dec 5 by-election in Batu Sapi, Sabah, was postponed due to the elevated number of Covid-19 cases and people understood the reason for it.
“If we can do it for Batu Sapi, why can’t we do the same for Gerik, Perak, and Bugaya, Sabah?” he asked.
“January is still too early to call for polls,” he told FMT, referring to an announcement made by the Election Commission yesterday that by-elections in Gerik and Bugaya will be held on Jan 16.
The by-elections follow the death of two-term Gerik MP Hasbullah Osman of Barisan Nasional on Nov 16, and Bugaya assemblyman Manis Muka Mohd Darah of Warisan a day later.
The Batu Sapi by-election was called following the death of Warisan MP Liew Vui Keong.
Awang Azman said the government should not place the people’s health at risk. By-elections should only be held when Covid-19 cases dropped below 100 cases daily.
Retired political analyst Azmi Hassan said the EC might just have been doing its job by announcing the by-election date yesterday.
“Since they have received a notification of vacancy, they have an obligation to state the date for polls,” he said, adding that the government could now look at postponing the by-elections until the number of Covid-19 cases has dropped.
Strict enforcement needed
Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said there should not be any “double standards” in allowing by-elections in Gerik and Bugaya but not in Batu Sapi.
“If the EC is confident that the by-election will not trigger more infections, then they should allow polls in Batu Sapi too,” Lee told FMT.
He said polls could be held but strict enforcement and a review of SOPs was needed.
Lee said political ceramah could be held but the first row of seats should be at least 3.5 metres away from the podium.
“People should be seated at least one metre away from one another,” he said, adding that the podium could also be shielded to control spread.
He said many countries such as Australia, Singapore, Korea had held national elections during the Covid-19 crisis, with voters obeying health rules.
Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said the people had learned the lesson from the Sabah state elections which triggered a surge in infections nationwide.
“If the by-elections are held, everyone must observe SOPs. People cannot be hugging each other or shaking hands,” he said.
However, he said even though the EC might make all the recommendations, people might not follow the rules if there was no strict enforcement.