Is Putrajaya’s ban on political gatherings for polls in Melaka fair? Analysts intervene amid calls for relaxation | Malaysia


The Election Commission has yet to release its SOPs for the Melaka polls. – Photo by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, October 26 – The federal government’s ban on physical gatherings for the Melaka state election has drawn mixed reactions from politicians on both sides of the divide, and even those from the same parties.

PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil questioned the rationale for the ban under the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Act 1988, noting that the government had simultaneously cleared the Malaysian Cup in front of fans in stadiums on October 29.

“What is confusing is that Melaka is in phase 4 of the PNR but the ban in place places the state as if it is back in phase 1,” Fahmi said of the stimulus package. national.

“People will read that it is designed to clutter up some parties and for me surely when you look at other countries the guidelines are meant to make it easier not to frustrate so what is the meaning of campaigning when we can’t meet them. voters, this is absolutely ridiculous. “

Lembah Pantai MP said the decision to implement the ban without consultation was also contrary to the spirit of the MoU on transformation and political stability between PH and the federal government.

The government should meet with all political stakeholders to develop alternatives to poll-related gatherings, in the same way it has met with companies to develop standard operating procedures for their respective economic sectors, he said.

Fahmi recognized the need to “walk a tightrope,” but said it would be best not to have state elections under such restrictions.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Prof Azmi Hassan agreed the ban should be reconsidered, but rejected the suggestion that it could be politically motivated.

Instead, he said the health minister chose to implement the ban on public health grounds, noting that the move disproportionately affected the minister’s party.

Political parties should also be savvy enough to be able to use social media to campaign, Azmi said, reiterating that Umno would be at a greater disadvantage by the ban than others.

“For example, Datuk Seri Najib Razak can easily attract a large crowd and it can give the impression to voters that Umno has huge support, so this ban hampers Umno by the decision made by an Umno minister, that is why I said the decision has no political purpose except for health concerns, ”he told Malay Mail.

However, Azmi said the government should still reconsider the outright ban and at least allow election candidates to continue taking the traditional constituency walks.

“Maybe they can limit the number of people in a group for walks, maybe no more than five per group, and they don’t enter business premises or homes and have to practice physical distance. . I think that can be adjusted before the start of the campaign period, ”he said.

Azmi also said the government should announce the campaign format when the election is called to ensure fairness for all parties involved.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s decision to enforce the ban has been unpopular on both sides of the political divide.

Melaka Umno’s deputy leader Mohamad Ali Mohamad had previously claimed that Khairy’s decision would hamper voter participation in democracy.

His colleague, who is also acting Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali, said some party electoral directors were disappointed that they could not campaign door-to-door and hoped to appeal the ‘prohibition, The star reported today.

“I hope the campaign rules will be relaxed a bit. But otherwise, we will always play by the rules, ”he said.

The newspaper also quoted Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Party news chief Datuk Wan Saiful Wan Jan as urging the government to review the ban.

“This is necessary because the information disseminated to voters will reach them more effectively,” he said.

PAS vice-chairman Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man had previously hailed the ban, but Islamist party leader in Melaka, Datuk Kamarudin Sidek, joined the chorus calling for a review.

“A lot of elderly voters don’t have electronic gadgets and it is difficult for us to court them,” he said.

The party, he said, could only target young voters through social media.

“Therefore, I call for the ban to be lifted so that we can reach senior voters,” he said, quoted by The star.

The DAP also overturned the decision. Its secretary general, Lim Guan Eng, claimed the ban was due to ruling political parties being afraid to face voters in Melaka after allegedly failing to bring Covid-19 infections under control that further curbed the ‘economy.

However, Umno’s chief information officer Shahril Hamdan said the party should take this opportunity to show that it can campaign effectively even in a pandemic.

“Umno has said in the past that he will accept and obey SOPs. Now is the time for us to prove it. Obviously we can plead whataboutism and point out why to stop this and not that, but I’m not sure this approach is helpful.

“The line has to be drawn somewhere and judgment should have been made, especially given what happened in Sabah. I believe the Department of Health and the Election Commission would have made a decision based on the balance of probabilities and those decisions will always have pros and cons.

“I’d rather we took it and move on, doing our best to win the argument numerically. Either way, the public seems to agree with this latest announcement, so political parties will have to too, ”Shahril said. Malaysian courier.

Other people who accepted the ban and said they would try to work within those constraints included Melaka Party Amanah Negara communications director Zairi Suboh, who said The star his team will boost his online campaign.

“We are not in favor of the ban, but we have no choice but to tap into digital platforms to get our messages out to voters.

“We can maximize the use of the TikTok app because it seems more efficient and also work closely with mainstream media,” he said.

Likewise, Melaka Gerakan chairman Datuk Seri Gan Peng Lam has said his party’s electoral machine has been ready to go digital since the start of this year.

“We focused on digital platforms although we wanted traditional election campaigns to woo our supporters,” Gan said, quoted by The star today.

Gerakan was previously a component of Barisan Nasional which is anchored by Umno, but has since switched sides and joined the Perikatan Nasional coalition, which is anchored by Bersatu with PAS.

The star reported a coalition of independents who plan to run in the 28 seats in Melaka state welcoming the ban.

“We congratulate the Minister of Health on his bold decision. We, the new kid on the block, have decided to embrace the technology as part of our state election strategy.

“We have collected information on voters and are trying to connect with them directly by sending them voice messages to remind them to reject greedy politicians,” campaign manager K. Murali Krishna told the newspaper.

He alleged that coalition chairman Aziah Harun was the first to worry about the emergence of the Delta variant in Melaka.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs principal researcher Oh Ei Sun said the ban would affect all major parties as it would require new approaches to campaigning.

Umno might be more upset by the move as its strongholds were in rural and semi-rural areas where physical countryside has traditionally performed better and internet coverage was weaker than in urban areas.

“The same goes for PKR and Amanah, while DAP could perhaps do better in online campaigns with its predominantly urban or suburban headquarters where network coverage is better and voters put more emphasis on the issues, which could be. delivered online.

“Well, the campaign is well advanced, so unless some parties strike a brilliant compromise between hygienic safety and the needs of the campaign, this appears to be a mostly online campaign, a first in the country,” he said. he declared.

Earlier this month, four members of the Assembly withdrew their support for Sulaiman from Umno as Chief Minister of Melaka, resulting in the dissolution of the State Assembly and forcing a snap election. on November 20 in parallel with the pandemic.

The official election campaign can only start from November 8, which is the day of the nominations, but politicians have already gathered in Melaka before that.

Among them was Najib who was shown mingling with crowds of supporters both in an enclosed space adorned with Umno and Barisan Nasional banners, and in an outdoor restaurant last week. Both videos have since been shared widely on social media.

The Election Commission has yet to release its SOPs for the Melaka polls.


Sara H. Byrd

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