KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — The Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) today welcomed the government’s willingness to review create laws concerning elections during the pandemic.
Its chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said it is high time a comprehensive review be conducted on existing laws for the electoral process, whether it is for by-elections or for a general election.
“This is especially to determine if elections can be suspended in times of crises, including those related to health, public disorder, natural disaster, or in situations which threaten national security,” he said in a statement.
Abdul Rashid said a special provision can be inserted into the Federal Constitution as well as the Election Act 1958, so that necessary steps can be taken when the country is faced with a detrimental crisis.
He said the existing legal framework only empowers the Election Commission (EC) to manage elections whenever the need arises, but there are no provisions on postponing them.
“Per the first clause of Article 54 in the Constitution, the EC is obligated to conduct elections to fill any empty parliamentary seat within 60 days.
“Thus it is now necessary to insert a new article, subarticle or even section in the Election Act 1958 to better empower us to conduct and manage elections in the country,” Abdul Rashid said.
The chairman said the ERC’s report handed in to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on August 27 also proposed improving the EC’s preparedness in handling unexpected situations.
“It was also suggested the commission develop specific guidelines related to managing elections during emergencies, covering natural disasters, riots, or movement control orders such as the recent one in the event of an epidemic which is difficult to handle in a short space of time.
“To this, the committee is ready to assist the government and all relevant stakeholders in creating new provisions related to the need to postpone elections during crises, as well as making the management of elections in Malaysia more effective and fair,” he said.
Abdul Rashid added the ERC also welcomes additional efforts to strengthen the law, including the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, as mentioned by Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah last week.
He said the commission also believes several new provisions should be introduced with the intent of resolving the issues that could plague the democratic electoral process, which in turn can erode independence, justice, and transparency.
“The basic features of the democratic electoral process cannot be ignored, and existing perfected methods in accordance with the law should not be sidelined simply to conclude an election.
“In any election each candidate and party should be given sufficient opportunity to campaign, and voters should not be obstructed with regulations which are deemed to prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities fairly and independently,” he said.
Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Functions) Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof told the Dewan Rakyat that the government is studying a proposal on the electoral process, to see if a new Act is needed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.