As Emergency looms, Sarawak polls set to be held over

By Chew Lip Song

THE Sarawak election, speculated to be called soon, will likely be deferred as Putrajaya pushes for a national Emergency that will suspend all polls due to Covid-19 fears.

Besides the Sarawak election, which must be called by middle of next year, the Batu Sapi by-election, scheduled for Dec 5 will also be held over, a source familiar with Putrajaya’s latest political maneuver  said.

The move by PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is also to thwart a possible snap general election, should the national budget, scheduled to be tabled on Nov 6 in the Dewan Rakyat, is rejected by the Lower House.

If that happens, by convention, the Muhyiddin administration is deemed to have lost confidence of the Dewan Rakyat and must resign, paving the way for snap polls.

“We can’t afford to have a snap general election amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” a source in Putrajaya told The New Sarawak, pointing to the sharp rise in cases following the Sept 26 Sabah election.

Soon after the Sabah polls, a third wave of Covid-19 cases hit the country, with daily new cases hovering between 700-900 cases, mostly from the state, but about two dozen new clusters linked to travellers from the State have been recorded outside Sabah.

Health experts have expressed worries that the Sarawak election, if held now, may worsen the situation. Former Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman had also said that a “national health disaster” would happen if snap polls were called.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg had on numerous occasions hinted that the state elections could be called despite Covid-19 fears as the situation was under control in the State.

Last week, he called on “outsiders” not to poke their noses into Sarawak electoral affairs and expressed “surprise” over the opposition’s calls not to have the elections now.

Abang Johari, who would be leading the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) charge into the polls, has since softened his stance and now said he would defer to the advice from the Health Ministry on the polls timing.

It is widely speculated that GPS would have an edge if polls were held soon, with the current Covid-19 travel restrictions imposed on those coming into the state and voters’ fears of pandemic spreading during polling.

Yesterday, Muhyiddin led a high-level delegation, including Senior Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, to meet the King in Kuantan to seek royal ascent to declare an Emergency.

The move is to bring semblance of stability into Putrajaya politics, which has been rocked by Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s claim of having enough lawmakers to form the next government and a threat by Umno to withdraw support for Muhyiddin-led Perikatan Nasional.

Umno president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi has since called for a “political ceasefire” but analysts are pessimistic the uneasy truce will last.

It is believed that if an Emergency is declared, the legislatures will be suspended but all other economic and social activities would proceed as usual, subject to Covid-19 SOPs.

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