KUCHING: The upcoming Sarawak elections will be the most expensive to date, according to Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman.
He predicted yesterday that the polls were around the corner based on indications given by the state ruling Barisan Nasional government.
It should happen very much earlier (than the November deadline), he told reporters after attending a briefing on preparations for the polls by state election officers at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar here yesterday.
The last polls were in September 2001. The Barisan won 60 of the 62 seats. There will be nine new seats this time.
Abdul Rashid said the commission expected to spend RM31.5mil, RM9.5mil more than the previous election.
The hiring of helicopters will cost about RM8.9mil while the rental of vehicles and boats will cost RM9mil, he said.
Some RM5mil will go to the salaries of and honorarium for more than 14,500 election officers and workers.
Abdul Rashid said the commission would lease 20 helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft from state-owned Hornbill Skyways and aviation firms in Indonesia and the Philippines for use in 13 of the 71 constituencies.
A total of 895,254 Sarawakians are eligible to vote. There are 14,764 postal voters.
The commission is expected to hire 3,889 vehicles, 1,007 longboats and 48 speedboats.
Noting that the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has extended to May the ban on the use of helicopters to certain no-fly zones in the state, Abdul Rashid said the commission would have to negotiate with the department if the state assembly was dissolved ahead of the extended period.
We cannot complete our job without helicopters. We have to take the risk to fly into the no-fly zones if necessary, he said.
Abdul Rashid hoped that more political parties would field candidates in the coming polls to give voters a wider choice.
Asked on the commissions proposal to reduce the volume and size of election campaign posters and banners in future polls, he said the Government had agreed on this in principle.
We are in the course of submitting details to the Government, he added.
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