During the monsoon, security forces will be busy helping flood victims. If it coincides with the polls, the security personnel will also have to look after ballot boxes and provide security for voters. So, I think there is no need to rush to hold GE15. I think the people are also against holding polls during the flood season. – Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, PAS deputy president
The beat of the 15th general election (GE15) war drums is picking up pace.
The UMNO press conference on Sept 30 announcing a preference for early elections has significantly increased the political temperature.
Political parties are scrambling to shortlist or finalise their list of eligible candidates for the 222 parliamentary seats up for grabs.
The current political climate is one of apprehension. Some political parties (or rather one party) want an early election, while others prefer to hold it next year.
UMNO, the main governing political party, prefers an early election. This is uncommon as a governing party usually likes to serve its full term.
Another strange scenario this time is that the opposition does not want an early election and would prefer Parliament to complete the full five-year term. Usually, opposition parties are the ones clamouring for elections.
Other parties in the ruling BN/PN coalition, such as Bersatu, seem to have been left out of the decision-making process.
To add to the twist, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob seems to be dragging his feet. It would seem he prefers to remain in office till the end of his term.
However, the UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is rushing him to dissolve Parliament.
Indeed a complex state of affairs!
Many see the urgency to have early elections by UMNO as a strategy not only for BN to win and form the next government but also a manoeuvre to discontinue the many court cases concerning alleged corruption among some of its leadership after winning GE15.
UMNO, on the other hand, claims a supposed justification for early elections: to have a stable government with a clear mandate in the face of further anticipated economic and international turmoil.
On Sarawak, many are confident that Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg will lead GPS into another significant victory at GE15, whether it is held now or later.
The progressive track record of the GPS government has led to a stable state government that has fostered a peaceful society.
Besides contributing to political stability in Parliament, a decisive victory by GPS would give Sarawak an influential position to continue building upon its successes in regaining its rights and privileges under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
Generally, whether GE15 should be held now or later does not create a lot of a stir among the citizenry.
However, this time it has stirred up some emotions, but not due to political sentiments. The months of November to February are generally considered to have heavy rainfall. The impact of climate change also adds to the unpredictability of the weather.
Some segments of society have expressed that the focus during the monsoon season should be on flood mitigation and management. The likelihood of natural disasters, such as landslides and flash floods, increases during this time.
In the event of floods, what should the officials do? Do they run the election or help the rakyat with the flood relief and rescue efforts?
According to a Ministry of Environment and Water list of flood hotspots circulating in Whatsapp chat groups nationwide, there are 5,496 hotspots identified for 2022. In Malaya’s 11 states, there are 3,925 flood hotspots.
In Sarawak alone, there are 1,034 potential flood hotspots. It is improbable that in the event of heavy rains, all these hotspots would be flooded simultaneously.
However, if some of these areas are affected, especially in the interior, it would undoubtedly affect the voting process. In addition, manpower for flood relief activities would be stretched and inadequate as many government officials would have been seconded by SPR for election duties.
So in such circumstances, where would the priorities lie? Election or lives?
Ultimately, deciding to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for GE15 rests with our King. I am sure the King would seek expert advice on such matters before deciding on the dissolution of Parliament.
Suppose the King keeps to his past methodology for resolving all the previous political crises, he will also consider the other political parties’ opinions. Combined with this, he would take the potential flood issues into account.
Despite the increase in election fever, the King might not soon consent to an election now. A fever-reducing ‘ice pack’ might be applied to bring down the election temperature.
An election next year after the Chinese New Year could also be more practical and a possibility.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.