Allowing polls delay may lead to abuse, warns expert

Constitutional lawyer says this could see ruling parties ordering postponements if they find public support unfavourable

KUALA LUMPUR – Amending the federal constitution to allow for elections to be postponed, even in a time of crisis, will only open up room for abuse, said constitutional lawyer Prof Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar.

He warned that ruling parties might use this to delay polls if public support for them is unfavourable.

An election can be postponed only if there is a state of emergency, says constitutional lawyer Prof Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar. – Wikipedia pic, October 8, 2020

As such, he said, it is best that the constitution remains untouched despite calls to hold off the Batu Sapi by-election due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Elections are part of our democratic process, and must be done according to the constitution. If we allow (elections) to be postponed, there are bound to be abuses,” Gurdial told The Vibes today.

“If the ruling party finds that it cannot win an election for a certain reason, that the sentiment is not on their side, they can postpone the election until the situation suits them.”

The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday said it will meet on October 13 to decide on the key dates for the Batu Sapi by-election, necessitated by the death of its MP Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

The polls body has come under heavy criticism from the public, which is calling for a delay as coronavirus cases have spiked over the past week, with many infections linked to the September 26 Sabah election.

A by-election must be carried out within 60 days of a seat being declared vacant.

Gurdial said under the current provisions, a vote can be postponed only if there is a state of emergency.

Law expert Prof Datuk Salleh Buang said the Covid-19 situation does not yet warrant an emergency to be declared.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong can issue a proclamation of emergency under Article 150 of the constitution if he feels that the nation’s security or economy, or public order faces a grave threat.

He can also declare an emergency for a specific area, in the interest of national security, under the National Security Council Act 2016.

“If the government doesn’t want to enforce the law to call for a by-election in Batu Sapi, the only way is for an emergency to be proclaimed.

“But is the current Covid-19 situation reason enough for an emergency to be declared? Probably not, especially when considering the impact it will have on the economy.”

Several quarters have called on political parties to allow Parti Warisan Sabah to retain Batu Sapi uncontested so as to avoid a potential new virus outbreak.

They include Umno Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki and DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang.

The Vibes

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