EC: Special SOP for Chini by-election a benchmark for future elections during pandemic

Election Commission chairman, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, said the commission was preparing the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Chini by-election to protect the health and safety of all parties, including voters. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Election Commission chairman, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, said the commission was preparing the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Chini by-election to protect the health and safety of all parties, including voters. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, May 30 — The Election Commission (EC) regards the Chini state by-election, to be held on July 4, will serve as benchmark for it to hold other by-elections, as well as general election, during a pandemic situation in the country.

Its chairman, Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun, said the commission was preparing the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Chini by-election to protect the health and safety of all parties, including voters.

“The Chini by-election will be conducted using the new SOP. In the event there is other elections to be held in future and the Covid-19 pandemic is still not over, the SOP will be applicable,” he said in an exclusive interview with Bernama TV in his office, here, recently.

However, Azhar said the SOP would be improved from time to time depending on the situation and circumstances then.

The SOP, which was presented during an engagement with the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Security Council (MKN), National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) and the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), covers the seven election processes, namely nomination day,printing of ballot papers, sending of postal ballot papers, early voting day, campaign period, polling day and announcement of the results.

“We have discussed twice with them (MOH, MKN, NADMA, PDRM) on May 8 and 21 on this special SOP, but it has yet to be finalised and it is subjected to the government’s directive on the Covid-19 pandemic in the country,” he said.

He said the EC’s approach to the Chini Election is based on one of the main goals of ensuring the safety and health of voters, taking into account the risk of the Covid-19 infection.

The SOP on the Chini by-election is aimed at reducing the risk of Covid-19 infection among voters, as well as candidates, supporters and election workers, he added.

On whether the election workers for the Chini by-election would be required to go for the Covid-19 swab test, Azhar said it would not be made compulsory, but they would be required to take to take their body temperature, clean their hands with sanitiser and maintain their social distancing when at the nomination centre and the vote counting centre.

The EC has set the nomination for the Chini state by-election on June 20, with early voting on June 30 and polling on July 4.

The by-election is being called after the incumbent, Datuk Seri Abu Bakar Harun, died of a heart attack at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital on May 6.

In the 14th general election (GE14) in May 2018, Abu Bakar polled 10,027 votes to win the seat by a majority of 4,622 votes against PAS candidate Mohd Fadhil Noor Abdul Karim who obtained 5,405 votes and Mohamad Razali Ithnain of PKR (1,065 votes).

The by-election is the first ever called during the movement control order period. — Bernama

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