KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — After his proposal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was rejected, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today that the upcoming Sarawak state election and the Batu Sapi by-election will still have to take place amid Covid-19 unless emergency is declared.
Citing the Federal Constitution, the prime minister said the elections will still have to go on, but he noted the concerns of the Election Commission (EC) staff who fear of contracting Covid-19 while serving during polling.
“If you ask me there should be no elections now as the Covid-19 cases are spiking, however, we can’t call it off unless we declare a state of emergency,” Muhyiddin said today during a surprise address.
The Federal Constitution states that an election must be held within 60 days of a the Batu Sapi seat being declared vacant by the EC, or the dissolution of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly.
However, the Sarawak assembly is not set to be automatically dissolved until June next year, which would allow a state election to be held as far away as August next year.
This comes as Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg said earlier this month that he does not mind if the state holds its election later rather than sooner in light of the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
Meanwhile, the Batu Sapi by-election will be held on December 5, but most the parties have since withdrawn from contesting it to give way to incumbent Parti Warisan Sabah.
Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is among those who have yet to announce its intention.
Last week, Muhyiddin and his Cabinet attempted to request for the Agong to proclaim a state of emergency, a decision which was rejected by the Agong following a discourse with the Conference of Rulers.
Since the elections are inevitable, Muhyiddin said he has left it to the EC to determine whatever SOPs are needed, bearing in mind that voter turnout could be poor as well.
“Voter turnout may be low but that’s democracy,” said Muhyiddin.
“We won’t be able to stop people from travelling across state and district lines nor from Peninsular Malaysia. It’s their right to vote. The EC chairman told us many of his staff are worried about working while the pandemic is still rife, but we have no choice but to continue.
Muhyiddin also moved to answer questions from the public who have been asking him why the government does not do swab test every single person who travels to vote in Sarawak and in Batu Sapi, which is currently a red zone
“Well, who is going to bear the costs of all these tests?” Muhyiddin asked.
“Do our labs have the capability to handle all the samples? Not only that, being screened for Covid-19 does not mean you won’t get infected afterwards. The virus is in the community and many individuals who have the virus show no symptoms.
“That’s why I’m imploring all of you to please look after yourselves. Be disciplined be it at work or elsewhere. I’ve heard of many cases in workplaces so please follow the SOPs strictly when you are outside,” he added.
Earlier this month, Muhyddin had admitted that the campaigning for the recent Sabah state election was among the probable causes of the recent Covid-19 spike.
However, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has since said that elections by itself is not to fault for the spike, but rather the lack of compliance to Covid-19 regulations by the public.