KUCHING: With a nationwide Emergency in place until Aug 1, the Sarawak state election may be put off beyond its due date of Aug 5 but opinions differ on how to do so.
Under the state constitution, an election must be held within 60 days from the dissolution of the state legislative assembly.
As the state legislature’s current term ends on June 6, an election must be called by Aug 5 at the latest.
In case the Emergency is not lifted earlier to allow for state polls to be held by Aug 5, Sarawak deputy speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala said one option is for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to promulgate an ordinance under Article 150 (2B) of the Federal Constitution to extend the state assembly’s term beyond June 6.
“This will allow sufficient time for the Election Commission (EC) to conduct the state election and meet the requirement of the Election Act and rules, including a minimum campaign period of 11 days after nomination, ” he said, noting that the state assembly’s term had been extended before in 1968.
He said another option is for the King to amend the election laws to shorten the campaign period that will enable the polls to be held on or before Aug 5.
He said the best option will be to allow the state election before Aug 1 if the Covid-19 situation is within a manageable range or when the vaccine is available, as the virus is not going to disappear soon.
But Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the automatic dissolution of the state assembly upon its expiry on June 6 is not applicable during the Emergency as the federal and state constitutions are now suspended.
“It means that time stands still during the period of emergency and the question of dissolution on June 6 no longer applies.
“The moment the Emergency is terminated, the federal and state constitutions will run again and the Chief Minister will have the authority again to see the Head of State to seek the dissolution of the state assembly, ” he said.
The former Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker said he believed the 60-day period to hold the election will run again from Aug 2 should the Emergency be lifted on Aug 1.
“That will be ample time for the EC to conduct the polls, provided they make preparations during this period, ” Wan Junaidi said.
Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) youth chief Michael Tiang said Sarawak can still proceed with the polls within the deadline set by the state constitution after the Emergency.
“In fact, holding the state election right after the Emergency is lifted but before its due date is important to uphold the integrity of the state constitution and preserve the most basic right in democracy, which is the right to vote, ” he said.
Tiang also said there is nothing to stop preparations for the polls to be held right after the Emergency.
“As we have been in the new normal since the Covid-19 outbreak started, the authorities should start planning to run the election according to the new norms, ” he said.
Did you find this article insightful?
25% readers found this article insightful