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 located within the Sandakan municipality, is a red zone area where fears are growing that if the by-election is to be held it would further aggravate Sabah’s Covid-19 situation that worsened after the Sept 26 state election.
The by-election has to proceed 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 and 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.
Nomination day is Nov 23.
Although many prefer a 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 vacant parliamentary seat.
UiTM Administrative Science and Policy Studies lecturer Mujibu Abd Muis suggests that the Election Commission (EC) comes up with other ways instead of the conventional method of going to the polling booth.
“It can consider other methods, including mobile voting or virtual voting, without voters having to be physically present at the polling booth, ” he said.
UMS senior Public Health Medicine specialist and head of Public Health Unit Datuk Dr Mohd Yusof Ibrahim feels that it should be postponed.
“I don’t see the real urgency just to replace one parliamentary seat. At any political election there will be a political campaign. There will be overcrowding and it will be difficult for the public to observe the SOP, ” he said.
He said the recent state election was a good example.
The EC has set strict conditions for the by-election, including barring house-to-house campaigns.