EC: Batu Sapi by-election set for Dec 5, new Covid 19-related guidelines to be issued

Election Commission chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya October 13, 2020. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
Election Commission chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya October 13, 2020. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

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PUTRAJAYA, Oct 13 — The Election Commission (EC) has come up with a guideline proposal for conducting the upcoming by-election in Batu Sapi, Sabah, which falls on December 5.

Its chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh said the guidelines are meant to be an improvement of existing ones, especially when the conditional movement control order (CMCO) to combat Covid-19 is in effect.

“The main things that it will focus on is the adherence to social distancing, the wearing of face masks, the usage of hand sanitisers, the process of screening via body temperature, and recording the attendance of everyone for all activities related to the by-election,” he said during the press conference to announce the dates for Batu Sapi’s by-election.

Abdul Ghani added the guidelines will be submitted to the National Security Council and Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob for consideration and approval.

“It will be strictly enforced throughout the electoral process, including the briefing for EC personnel, nominating the candidates, printing and checking the voting ballots, removing and counting the postal votes, and checking the contents of the ballot boxes, among others.

“For example, the guidelines will mandate that the candidate or party can only have one main operations room while smaller operations rooms are prohibited and organising any form of lecture or ceramah during the campaigning period is likewise prohibited,” he said.

Other activities on the prohibited list include visits by candidates or party supporters to voters’ homes and organising or participating in walkabouts.

“Candidates can campaign online or via social media, or by distributing campaign pamphlets via post.

“Similarly, any campaigning activities, which involve party supporters or members of the party’s election machinery gathering in large numbers, will also not be allowed,” Abdul Ghani said.

The chairman said the by-election will involve 837 EC personnel, who will be tasked with monitoring the process. All the personnel and volunteers will be from Sabah only, to reduce the potential risk of Covid-19 from spreading.

“Thirteen voting centres with 67 channels and three early voting centres covering five early voting channels will be use.

“We expect the by-election to cost the EC approximately RM5 million,” he said.

Nomination Day will take place on Monday, November 23, with early voting on Tuesday, December 1.

Candidates and parties will be permitted to conduct their campaigns for a period of 12 days, which must end at 11.59pm on Friday, December 4.

Applications for domestic and international postal voting for the Batu Sapi by-election begins today, with the various form types closing on different days.

For 1A form meant for EC personnel, police, members of the Armed Forces, and the press, the closing date to apply for postal voting is on Thursday, November 12.

For the 1B and 1C forms meant for Malaysians abroad and those in the health and security sector respectively, the closing date to apply also falls on Thursday, November 12.

The federal seat of Batu Sapi fell vacant after its incumbent and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law Datuk Liew Vui Keong passed away on October 2, after contracting pneumonia while being treated for a slipped disc.

The Sabah state election which took place on September 26 saw the ruling Perikatan Nasional government win enough seats to form the new government.

However, following this a large spike in Covid-19 infections led to the declaration of the CMCO in the state, as well as in KL, Putrajaya and Selangor starting tomorrow until October 27.

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