More voters, more expenses

PETALING JAYA: The whopping RM1.1bil price tag to hold the coming 15th General Election (GE15) may further balloon if the polls are held during the monsoon season or done separately by states, say political analysts.

This increase in cost is inevitable as the Election Commission (EC) will have to hold the polls amidst floods and also with the sharp increase in the number of voters.

Senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Dr Azmi Hassan said there had been a rise of almost 50% in the number of voters since the last election in 2018 due to the implementation of Undi18 and automatic registration of voters.He said the cost of holding the polls at the end of the year would be higher if the monsoon season floods were taken into account.

“The EC would surely need to double its efforts in transporting personnel and ballot boxes during the rainy season.

“But it would be too extreme to say that the cost of holding the election will increase tremendously because of the monsoon,” he said.

This was because other agencies such as the National Disaster Management Agency and National Security Council would also be involved if floods occurred, he said.

He opined that the general election should be held simultaneously nationwide to keep the cost from ballooning further.

“Several states have indicated their prerogative to hold off their election till next year. Running the polls at different times will add more to the RM1bil,” Azmi said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political science expert Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said the higher number of voters would certainly result in higher cost of holding the polls.“The EC’s budget has increased due to logistics, manpower and training for officers.

“This includes the use of information and communications technology and systems throughout the country during the polls,” he said.

Sivamurugan also said it would be better to hold both the parliamentary and state elections together to prevent escalation of costs.

Three states under the control of Pakatan Harapan, namely Penang, Selangor and Negri Sembilan, have been advised by the party’s presidential council not to dissolve their state assemblies until they complete their full term next year.

The PAS leadership had also said the three states helmed by the party – Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu – would not call for state elections until the full term was completed.

The current 14th Parliament will expire in mid-July next year, and both federal and state administrations are required to hold elections within 60 days of the expiry.

Meanwhile, Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) chairman Thomas Fann said the increase in the cost of holding elections was expected due to the sharp rise in the number of voters for GE15.

“More voters means that more election workers, polling centres and resources are needed,” he said.

Measures to keep people safe from Covid-19 and the floods if the general election were held during the rainy season would add at least RM100mil to the cost, he said.

Prof Dr Nik Ahmad Kamal Nik Mahmod from International Islamic University Malaysia said the costlier election budget was justified considering the increase in personnel and facilities needed for the polls.

“The cost of almost everything has increased by at least 20% since the Covid-19 outbreak, and this means that a 100% increase in the cost of holding GE15 is inevitable.

“It’s the inflationary situation that we are facing now,” he said.

Questioning how the election budget would be used, Maria Chin Abdullah, who co-chairs the 13- member bipartisan Parliamentary Caucus for Multi-Party Democracy, said the EC must present in a transparent manner what was being spent and what areas it would cover.“I recognise that the number of voters has increased, which means more voting stations and personnel,” the Petaling Jaya MP said when contacted.

Apart from the extra cost, she said she was also against the polls being held during the monsoon season as it would likely see a lower voter turn-out.

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