States can hold elections separately, observers say

Noel Achariam Raevathi Supramaniam

Observers say not holding state and federal elections concurrently will not impact the formation of a new federal government. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, October 11, 2022.

STATE governments have the right to choose whether they want to dissolve their state assemblies together with parliament for concurrent state and federal elections, observers said.

They said that holding state elections separately would not affect the forming of the federal government. 

The observers were also of the opinion that it was better for the state and federal elections to be held separately despite the high costs involved. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced the dissolution of parliament to make way for the general election. The elections will now be held within 60 days as the monsoon season approaches.

Previously, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS had announced that they will not dissolve the state assemblies in states they government due to the monsoon season, saying that they would want to address flood mitigation plans first before holding polls next year.

PH controls Selangor, Penang and Negri Sembilan while PAS controls Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.

Four other states – Sabah, Sarawak, Malacca and Johor – held their state elections within the last year. All are controlled by either Barisan Nasional (BN) or a BN-friendly pact.

University of Tasmania political analyst James Chin said it was better to separate the federal and state elections.

“We understand it will cost more (to hold separate polls), but it will allow voters to have choices. 

“Normally, voters won’t split their choices. If they vote for a certain party then their choices are the same. 

“But, if it is split (elections) then people might have a choice to vote one way for the federal government and another way for the state. This offers the people more choices, so I support the separation of state elections,” he said.

International Islamic University Malaysia’s Dr Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd Mokhtar meanwhile said that all ruling parties in states have the right to choose if they want to dissolve their state assemblies.

“If some states do not dissolve their state assemblies together with the federal legislature, they can do so constitutionally. 

“This means the holding of state elections separate from federal parliament will be normalised in the future.”

He said there would be no effect on both federal and state governments because they are entirely different entities.  

“The current federal government, or that minority segment of it, has different concern. This faction is desperate to have the election the soonest possible. 

“In the longer term, this is actually good for voters. The separation between federal and state governments becomes clearer,” he said. 

Tunku Mohar also said that PH would prefer to hold state polls after the monsoon season as they need a high voter turnout. 

Meanwhile, Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said there was no requirement for concurrent elections at federal and state levels. 

“So, they (political parties) can respectively call for their state elections as they see fit, although it would perhaps be administratively more convenient to hold them concurrently.” 

As for PH and PAS saying the polls should not be held during the monsoon season, Oh said they were obviously not prepared for polls. 

This, he said, was because PKR and DAP especially were both reeling from their internal power struggles. – October 11, 2022.

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