Pick right day for polling to ensure high voter turnout, EC told

Raevathi Supramaniam Noel Achariam

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann says the Election Commission must choose a day that is most convenient for voters within the 60 day period. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 11, 2022.

WITH the dissolution of parliament announced yesterday, the Election Commission (EC) must select a date that will ensure maximum voter turnout, observers said.

Failure to do so would see Malaysians, who are politically fatigued, not coming out to vote, they warned.

Measures must also be put in place to ensure that those who are affected by the monsoon floods can exercise their constitutional right, they added.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said a convenient date must be chosen.

“The EC must choose a day that is most convenient for most voters within the 60-day period,” Fann said.

“A long weekend that coincides with a public holiday would be ideal.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced the dissolution of parliament to make way for the 15th general election.

He said Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had given his royal assent for the dissolution of the current parliament term, which was set to end in July next year.

Following the dissolution, the EC will have 60 days to fix the dates for nomination, campaigning and polling.

The dissolution of parliament comes during a backdrop of pressure against Ismail’s party, Umno.

Ismail came into power after Muhyiddin Yassin was ousted after losing support. Muhyiddin took over in 2020 when former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned after the Sheraton Move, leading to the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government.

Fann said Putrajaya’s decision to call for an election knowing full well that the country will be facing the monsoon season is nothing but self-serving.

“When we are already entering our seasonal monsoon season and the Malaysian Meteorological Department has warned of heavy thunderstorms and flooding in many areas, it is utterly irresponsible for the PM and his party to push for an early election because it is politically expedient for them,” Fann said.

“There is little doubt that voter turnout will be affected by floods or heavy rain on polling day.

“As it is, voter turnout is already expected to be lower than 2018.

“Coupled with the political upheavals we witnessed over the past three years, many are already questioning whether it is worth taking part in elections.”

MetMalaysia has warned that from November to March next year, the country will be experiencing monsoon flooding.

Last year, devastating floods in 11 states saw millions in property damage, thousands evacuated to temporary flood relief centres and a dozen dead.

International Islamic University Malaysia’s Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar also agreed that holding the general election over a weekend would ensure a higher turnout.

“Although there is no hard and fast rule on the ideal election day, holding it in the middle of the week is definitely inappropriate as most voters will be at work, and some outstation voters could not be back to their hometown to cast their vote,” he said.

“That said, the best day to hold the election would be Saturday, as this is the most common weekend holiday throughout Malaysia.”

The EC, in 2018, set May 9 – a Wednesday – to hold national polls.

However, this is the fifth time an election has been held on a weekday in Malaysia, the last time being the 1999 general election, which took place on a Monday, November 29.

Weekday elections happened two other times during Dr Mahathir’s 22 years as PM – the 1995 general election, which took place on Monday and Tuesday, April 24 and 25, and also the 1982 general election, which took place from Thursday to Monday, April 22-26.

Despite it being held in the middle of the workweek, the EC saw a 82.3% (14.9 million) voter turnout in 2018.

Following the passing of Undi18 and the automatic voter registration, an additional 5.8 million voters have been added to the electoral roll, bringing the total number of voters to 21.1 million.

BN’s choice of date

University Tasmania political analyst James Chin said Umno will choose an election day and date that is beneficial to the party.

“There is no question on whether it should be held on a weekday or weekend,” Chin said.

“It doesn’t matter what the rest of the country or the opposition thinks. If they think they can win on a Wednesday, then they will call for it on that day. They don’t care.

“The only thing that matters to them (ruling party) is that if they call for polling on a particular date can they win? That’s all they are concerned about.

“It has nothing to do with the monsoon or lack of transportation (to get poll centres). These are all nonsensical issues.”

A low voter turnout would benefit BN, Chin said, as evidenced in the Johor and Malacca elections earlier this year, which saw a 65.85% and 54.92% turnout, respectively.

Umno dominated in both states.

“Also if there is a low turnout, it’s good for BN because people tend to support the incumbent. A low turnout will be advantageous to them,” Chin added. – October 11, 2022.

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