KOTA KINABALU: A question among political circles is whether the Dec 5 Batu Sapi by-election should go on, or be postponed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic in Sabah.
Batu Sapi, which is within the Sandakan municipality, is a Covid-19 red zone area and there is a growing fear that if the by-election is held, it would further aggravate Sabah’s Covid-19 situation that spiked after the Sept 26 state election.
The election has to go on under the Federal Constitution, unless an emergency is declared in the state.
So far, most mainstream political parties in the state – Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Sabah STAR, PAS, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) – have said they are opting out to give way for Parti Warisan Sabah whose incumbent MP Datuk VK Liew passed away on Oct 2.
Sabah Bersatu has yet to make a decision on whether to contest the by-election, with nomination day set for Nov 23.
Though many would prefer for the postponement of the by-election, it is legally not possible as the Federal Constitution requires that the seat be filled within 60 days from the official notification of a Parliamentary seat.
UiTM Administrative Science and Policy Studies Lecturer, Mujibu Abd Muis suggested that the Election Commission (EC) should think of other methods instead of the conventional method of going to the polling booth.
"They could consider other methods including mobile voting or virtual voting without voters having to be physically present at polling booths," he said.
UMS Senior Public Health Medicine Specialist and Head of Public Health Unit Datuk Dr Mohd Yusof Ibrahim said he personally felt that it should be postponed.
“I don’t see the real urgency just to replace one Parliament seat. At any political election, there will be political campaigning. There will be overcrowding and difficulties for the public to practice SOP, ” he said.
He said that the just-concluded state election was a good example of this.
“There will be new norms to adapt to (if the elections have to be held), ” he said, adding that a safe by-election was preferable and this was only when the Sabah has brought the outbreak in the state under control.
The EC has set strict campaign conditions, including barring house to house campaigning during the by-election.