Chini by-election: ‘New normal’ observed on nomination day makes it most quiet, calmest process

(From left) Independent candidates Tengku Datuk Zainul Hisham Tengku Hussin and Mohd Shukri Ramli, and Barisan Nasional’s Mohd Sharim Md Zain at the nomination centre in Pekan June 20, 2020. ― Bernama pic
(From left) Independent candidates Tengku Datuk Zainul Hisham Tengku Hussin and Mohd Shukri Ramli, and Barisan Nasional’s Mohd Sharim Md Zain at the nomination centre in Pekan June 20, 2020. ― Bernama pic

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PEKAN, June 20 ― Today’s nomination process for the Chini by-election can be regarded as  the most quiet and held in the calmest situation with all quarters observing the new normal to help end the Covid-19 pandemic during this recovery movement control order (RMCO) period.

Unlike in previous elections or by-elections, today’s nomination process saw no processions, or supporters accompanying candidates, to the nomination centre at the Pekan National Youth Skills Institute (IKBN).

Even leaders from the contesting parties were also no where to be seen in the vicinity of IKBN ― indicating the compliance by all quarters with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the Election Commission (EC) for the Chini by-election, which is making Malaysian electoral history as the first election in the country held under the “new normal”.

Strict checks were conducted at the main entrance to IKBN with only the relevant parties, including media practitioners and health personnel, allowed to enter after they had their body temperature taken. When in the IKBN compound, they were required to observe social distancing.

When returning officer Datuk Zaliza Zulkipli announced the candidates for the by-election at 10.30am, it was not greeted with cheers and applauds from their respective supporters, as would normally be the case in previous elections.

Despite the standard operating procedure prohibiting supporters from assembling within a 1.5km distance from the nomination centre, there were a few people seenhanging around outside the IKBN fence.

The sombre atmosphere at the nomination centre however turned lively for a few minutes after the announcement by Zaliza when a convoy of Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters, in four-wheel drive vehicles and and high-powered motorcycles, passed by carrying the BN flag and shouting the BN slogan.

The new normal practices, especially social distancing, was strictly implemented at the main hall of the nomination centre, with only limited number of people allowed to be present, including from the media, and the seats for candidates, their proposers and seconders, placed a metre apart.

Besides wearing the face mask, candidates who arrived to submit their nomination papers were also given gloves to wear before using the stationery brought by the EC. They were also required to sanitise their hands.

As a precautionary measure against the Covid-19 outbreak, the Health Mijnistry had set up four tents nearby, with its staff ready in personal protective  equipment (PPE) to act in case of the candidates, proposers  or seconders showed Covid-19 symptoms.

The Chini by-election has been necessitated by the death of its incumbent Datuk Seri Abu Bakar Harun, 60, from Barisan Nasional (BN), on May 6.

The EC has set July 4 for polling which will witness a three-cornered fight between BN’s Mohd Sharim Md Zain, 41, and two independent candidates, businessman Tengku Datuk Zainul Hisham Tengku Hussin, 64, and social activist Mohd Shukri Mohd Ramli, 49.

In the 14th general election, Abu Bakar, a three-term incumbent, retained the Chini seat with a 4,622-vote majority, beating PAS candidate Mohd Fadhil Noor Abdul Karim, who received 5,405 votes, and Mohamad Razali Ithnain from PKR, who obtained only 1,065 votes. ― Bernama

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