Election reform panel welcomes move to postpone polls during crises

The ERC says a specific provision can be included in the Federal Constitution and the law to empower them to act during a crisis.

PETALING JAYA: The Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) has welcomed a proposal by Putrajaya to review existing laws to allow elections to be postponed during crises.

In a statement, ERC chairman Abdul Rashid Rahman said specific Acts needed to be created to postpone elections when the country was facing a crisis. This included health crises, chaos and natural disasters or in situations that endangered the security of the country, he said.

Rashid added a specific provision could be included in the Federal Constitution and the Elections Act 1958 to empower the Election Commission (EC) to take the necessary action in the event of such situations.

The ERC also welcomed efforts to strengthen other laws such as the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) to curb Covid-19.

“The ERC is of the view that several new provisions should be introduced with the aim of overcoming conditions that could disrupt the democratic electoral environment which could erode freedom, justice and transparency,” said Rashid.

He added that in any democratic election, candidates and political parties should be given the opportunity to campaign and voters should not be limited by rules that could be considered as restricting them from fulfilling their responsibilities fairly and freely.

“The current legal framework only gives the EC the power to manage elections where the independent body is obliged to hold polls when there is a vacancy. However, there is no provision to postpone the election,” he said.

According to Article 54 of the Federal Constitution, the EC must hold elections to fill the vacancies that exist within 60 days.

In an ERC report submitted to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Aug 27, one of the proposals was for the EC to develop specific guidelines for emergency situations. This includes conditions and emergencies such as natural disasters, riots or curfews.

On Oct 31, Muhyiddin had said that both the upcoming Batu Sapi by-election and the Sarawak election could not be postponed unless a state of emergency was declared, due to constitutional provisions in both the Federal Constitution and the Sarawak state constitution.

Muhyiddin had also said that voters would not be able to be stopped from travelling across state and district borders or between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia as it was their right to vote.