Ex-EC chairperson: “EC has power to postpone polling process at flooded voting centres”

THE Election (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981 empowers the Election Commission (EC) to postpone the polling process at voting centres affected by flooding if an election is held during the monsoon season, said former EC chairperson Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar.

He pointed out that if flood water levels rise when the polling process is ongoing, the EC can make the decision to postpone voting to another day.

“The EC must then instruct the electoral officer to inform the presiding officers at all voting centres to stop the polling process,” he said in an interview with Malay daily Utusan Malaysia yesterday (Sept 20).

Wan Ahmad elaborated that the ballot boxes containing the votes must then be sealed according to existing procedures – a process that is witnessed by agents of all candidates or agents of voting centres to prevent any doubts or disputes.

“All presiding officers and EC officers have been sufficiently trained and briefed to carry out their duties should their voting centres get suddenly inundated,” he added.

“The sealed ballot boxes will then be opened by the presiding officer, which will be witnessed by all contesting candidates, on a new polling date set by the EC.

According to Wan Ahmad, conducting polls during the monsoon season does not pose a big challenge to the EC as it had done so during the 10th general election (GE10) in 1999 whereby Parliament was dissolved in October with polling day set for the following month.

“During that time, there were heavy rains in the East Coast states although no voting centres were inundated with flood water,” he remarked.

Wan Ahmad acknowledged that the biggest challenge of an election during monsoon season would be for supporters of political parties in gathering s outside voting centres to show support for their candidates.

Cost 10% more than usual

Holding a general election during the monsoon season would cost the government 10% more than usual in conducting polls, Wan Ahmad said, especially if it involves closed polling centres.

The EC previously estimated that the 15th general election (GE15) is expected to cost around RM1 bil, which is double the RM500 mil spent to conduct the polls in 2018.

“Should voting centres be forced to close and the voting process be postponed, the increase in cost involves additional allowances for workers, as well as preparations for a new voting process to replace the one that had to be stopped due to floods,” Wan Ahmad explained.

“There are also additional costs to prepare umbrellas at the entrance of every voting centre, hiring heavy machinery to transport out equipment from a flooded place, and the added cost of allowances and meals for polling workers.

“However, the preparation and cost for other aspects including ballot boxes, ballot papers, forms, pencils, rulers, ink and food remain unchanged.”

On the topic of GE15 Wan Ahmad said that the EC has 60 days to conduct the election once Parliament is dissolved.

He said should Parliament be dissolved in October, the EC needs at least one month to make preparations encompassing everything from the moment Parliament is dissolved right up to polling day.

“This means that if the Parliament is dissolved in October, the EC has enough time to carry out all the needed processes to have the election in November,” Wan Ahmad elaborated.

“If it gets belated to December, certain states such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and Sarawak are at risk of floods.” – Sept 21, 2022


Main photo credit: Malaysiakini

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