Holding elections during a pandemic

MELAKA goes into campaign mode in about two weeks. Sarawak might also hold an election if the Emergency in the state is lifted.

What can we expect from an election held in the midst of a pandemic, albeit one that is moving towards becoming endemic?

Covid-19 case numbers are flattening. And most of the states in the country are in Phase Four of the National Recovery Plan, with most activities allowed for fully vaccinated individuals and most economic sectors open. Schools are reopening too.

However, medical experts have cautioned that an election could still cause Covid-19 cases to spike, pointing to the snap Sabah polls last year that caused a major increase in infections we are still recovering from.

Politicians and their supporters supposedly did practise physical distancing when campaigning for the Sabah election.

However, some political gatherings were attended by more than 250 people, which violated the Covid-19 SOP.

This will be taken into account as the Health Ministry and Election Commission (EC) finalise the SOP for the Melaka election.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the SOP would consider the EC experience in handling the Sabah polls.

“We will make sure what happened in Sabah will not recur... and in my view, during the Sabah election, we did not have any vaccinations, and we accepted the fact that during that time, there was no Covid-19 transmission related to the Delta variant,” Khairy said.

Since the pandemic began in March last year, at least 120 countries and territories have held national elections or referendums despite concerns about spreading Covid-19. Nine countries in Asia have held an election during the pandemic.

Last year, Mongolia held its parliamentary elections on June 24, there was a gubernatorial election in Tokyo on July 5, and Singapore held its general elections on July 10.

Mongolia approached its elections by encouraging online campaigning. However, when that was not possible, physical gatherings were allowed but with SOP such as physical distancing, temperature checks, strict ventilation, sanitisation of the vicinity and wearing face masks were enforced.

While Singapore banned campaign rallies entirely, it was campaigning as usual in the run-up to Tokyo’s gubernatorial election while South Korea’s legislative elections in April 2020 had special sections set aside so Covid-19-positive citizens could vote.

We will have our own conditions set by the Health Ministry and the EC suited to the situation in Melaka, and everyone involved, from politicians to voters, must adhere strictly to that SOP if we don’t want to see another spike like the one the country experienced after Sabah’s polls.

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elections , pandemic , covid-19 , Melaka , Sarawak


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