Polls in the time of Covid-19

MELAKA: With the strict standard operating procedure (SOP) in place for the Melaka state election, candidates have been reminded to use social media and other digital platforms to get their campaign messages across.

The Election Commission (EC), in a comprehensive SOP issued for the Melaka polls yesterday, advised them to utilise Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, WeChat, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram and other applications.

Its chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh urged candidates and their parties to also turn to newspapers, TV networks and information technology to campaign, in line with the new norms stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Candidates are subject to the Election Offences Act 1954 (Act 5) during the campaign. Only candidates with police permits are allowed to campaign on vehicles using loud hailers, at the stipulated time and place to deliver ceramah (political addresses),” he told a press conference on the conclusion of nominations yesterday.

Abdul Ghani said the EC had come up with the latest guidelines to check the spread of Covid-19, adding that voters too were subject to the basic SOP.

“This includes body temperature screening, using hand sanitisers, wearing face masks and observing physical distancing at voting centres,” he said.

In the newly released SOP, physical ceramah, face-to-face campaigning and public speeches are barred.

Other prohibited activities are house-to-house visits and walkabouts.

However, candidates or their party machinery are allowed to put up banners and buntings and distribute pamphlets into post boxes at homes by observing physical distancing of at least one meter, with this activity limited to a group of three.

Abdul Ghani said only one operations room was allowed for each candidate of a constituency, with the limit set at 50% of the space available.

Those involved should also take the RTK Ag self-test every two days during the campaign and bear the costs, with the test results to be uploaded onto their MySejahtera app.

Apart from this, party meetings are limited to two hours with the frequency not exceeding four times a week. Those attending must be fully vaccinated with space limited to 50% of the capacity of the venue.

Abdul Ghani said media conferences were allowed with those involved to be fully vaccinated, including journalists.

For early voting and on polling day, he said agents of the candidate/party who had completed their duties and those who have cast their ballots should promptly leave the polling station.

He said voters should check voting information through the mySPR Semak app or Semakan Daftar Pemilih SPR portal.

“This is to control the number of voters coming to the polling station at any one time. The suggested schedules are from 8am to 10am, 10am to noon, noon to 2pm, and 2pm to 4.30 pm,” he said.

Abdul Ghani said symptomatic voters should be double-masked and put on disposable rubber gloves before receiving their ballots and entering the voting cubicle, and that the person assisting such voters should be in full personal protection equipment (PPE).

He said voters who are Covid-19 positive will not be allowed to leave hospital, quarantine centres or homes, while those who are patients under investigation (PUI) and persons under surveillance (PUS) can do so with the approval of the district health officer.

Voters in areas under an enhanced movement control order must undergo an RTK Ag test 24 hours before polling day and only those who test negative could seek police approval to go out to vote.

The EC chief said for the official tallying of votes, only five supporters for the winning candidate (unofficial result) and three supporters of the other candidates were allowed to be present, with the entry pass to be distributed by the returning officer before the election result announcement.

“Victory celebrations by candidates are not allowed,” he said.

By : RSN MURALI, MAZWIN NIK ANIS, RAHIMY RAHIM, ALLISON LAI and TARRENCE TAN – THE STAR

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