EC chief says possible to defer Batu Sapi poll in event of health emergency

On the proposal for online voting during the by-election, EC chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh said it was not feasible to introduce such a system without proper evaluation. — Picture by Hari Anggara
On the proposal for online voting during the by-election, EC chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh said it was not feasible to introduce such a system without proper evaluation. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Provisions exist to postpone the Batu Sapi by-election in Sabah if an emergency is declared in the constituency, said Election Commission chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh.

However, Ghani told Astro Awani that absent any such declaration, the EC was bound by the Federal Constitution to proceed with the poll triggered by the death of incumbent Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

“So, within 60 days, the EC must move to fill the vacancy unless the government declares the Batu Sapi constituency a (Covid-19) red zone, the spread of the disease becomes uncontrolled and an emergency is declared; then the by-election may be delayed,” he was quoted as saying.

“If all the criteria are met, the EC will abide,” he said.

On the proposal for online voting during the by-election, Ghani said it was not feasible to introduce such a system without proper evaluation.

He also noted that this would not be possible without accompanying legal amendments to the country’s election laws.

“This is not something we can do arbitrarily as there are processes that must be followed,” he explained.

Liew died on October 2 due to a lung infection he developed after being hospitalised for a slipped disc.

The EC will meet on October 13 to set the dates for the poll.

Major political rivals to Liew’s Warisan party have said they will not contest so as not to trigger an election campaign or force voters out while Covid-19 was raging in the state.

However, an election must be held if more than one candidate is nominated.

Sabah concluded its early 16th state election last month amid a worsening Covid-19 situation, causing a surge in cases in the state that has since been brought to most other parts of the country.

Malaysia is facing a third wave of Covid-19 infections, which saw cases rise exponentially since last month to hit a high of 691 last Tuesday.

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