Polls may continue being unaligned for a while, says analyst

PETALING JAYA: While it would be more convenient to hold federal and state elections concurrently, the same scenario seen recently – when six states held their polls nine months after the general election – is still a distinct possibility in future election cycles, say observers.

Sarawak, Sabah, Johor and Melaka had their state polls earlier than the national polls, and this is likely to be repeated, they said.

Election analyst Dr G. Manimaran said while it would be better to hold both federal and state elections simultaneously, including in Sabah and Sarawak, it is unlikely to happen.

“Sarawak has been holding its state elections separately since 1979.

“Sabah used to hold separate elections, but since 1999, its state polls has been held simultaneously with the general election.

“And in September 2020, Sabah called a snap election, two years after the 14th General Election (GE14) in 2018,” he said.

In view of all the above, including the Melaka polls in November 2021 and the Johor election in March 2022, it is unlikely that concurrent polls will be held for GE16.

This means that the mandate of the Sabah government will only end around November 2025, Melaka in December 2026, Sarawak in February 2027, and Johor in April 2027, while the Federal Government’s mandate will end in December 2027.

For the six states that held elections recently, their mandates will end around September to October 2028.

Manimaran said while there is still room to hold concurrent polls, given the various end dates of the state assemblies and the Federal Government’s term, in practical terms it is unlikely to happen.

“This means that all state assemblies and Parliament need to be dissolved simultaneously by November 2025,” he said, adding that concurrent polls will be cost-effective and would save some RM1bil in costs.

This is after taking into account the fact that the 10 state polls which were held separately could have collectively cost some RM900mil or more, while GE15 is estimated to have cost around RM1.01bil.

Concurrent polls will also avert “election fatigue” among voters and incidences of extreme politicking by certain parties.

“Taking into account the phenomenon today, the different political ideologies – and most state governments and the central government governed by different coalitions and political parties – I don’t think there will be simultaneous elections in the future, at least for the next two or three election cycles,” said Manimaran.

“Now, we are facing a new election norm – which is separate elections for the states and central level, which is an extraordinary situation being witnessed 60 years after the formation of Malaysia.”

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann said concurrent polls is not possible as it is “extremely unlikely” that any administration would want to cut its term short in order to facilitate the realignment of election dates.

“The best chance would be for the six states to agree to earlier dissolution by about eight months to realign with GE16, but given the current hostile relationship between the Perikatan Nasional states and the unity government (comprising Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional), this may be a long shot.

“While it can be argued that holding separate elections allows voters to focus on national versus state and local issues, we saw that the politicians still framed state elections as a national referendum and campaign on national issues.

“This has confused voters and further downplayed the importance of state governments,” he said.

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