KOTA KINABALU: The proposal to amend laws to allow elections to be postponed is unfeasible, undesirable, and unjustifiable, says electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0.
The coalition for clean and fair elections said that the proposal was of great concern as it may lead to an abuse of power by politicians to stay in power indefinitely.
It said postponing elections would require amendments of federal and state constitutions, which is not feasible or justifiable in the current political context as well.
“A two-thirds majority for constitutional amendments is simply impossible in the Parliament and in most legislatures, ” Bersih said, adding that it believes postponing the election is just to avoid electoral defeat.
The coalition said it believes that elections can be conducted safely even during the Covid-19 pandemic if the Election Commission (EC) could propose to the Cabinet an expansion of absentee voting facilities, whether postal, early or distant, to all voters with legitimate needs.
It said amendments to the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981, and the Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003 laws need only be laid before the Dewan Rakyat.
“New Zealand and the United States have proved that elections can be safely conducted where voters were allowed to vote over a period of time instead of in one day as we practise in our electoral system, ” Bersih said in statement Wednesday (Nov 4) night.
As a result, overcrowding in the polls can be easily avoided and voters' safety can be assured of in the midst of a pandemic, it said.
Bersih also called for access for all voters to vote early, to vote in distant voting centres or to post their ballots to avoid cross-state and cross-district travelling and crowding on polling day.
The coalition said the safety of voters in these unprecedented times must be ensured by the EC.
“This is an extraordinary time, the EC must boldly reform the voting process to fit our new normal, ” it said.
It added that campaign methods must be changed and strictly enforced to adhere to SOPs (standard operating procedures) including physical distancing between candidates and the public.
It said the EC should use its power under Article 115 of the Federal Constitution to secure the assistance of national broadcasting station RTM – and even the goodwill of private broadcasters – to provide for party leaders' debates and free airtime for all candidates.
“The EC should in fact have an Elections (Televised Debates and Free Airtime) Regulations laid before the Dewan Rakyat before the Sarawak state election is called, ” it urged.
During a parliamentary sitting, Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (BN-Padang Terap) had asked Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin whether the government intends to amend the Constitution or pass a new law to defer a general election amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.