Dr Mahathir: Hold GE15 after flood season

PUTRAJAYA — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has suggested that the 15th general election (GE15) be held after the coming flood season to avoid untoward incidents befalling people who go out to cast their votes.

Dr Mahathir said apart from posing safety concerns, floods would also complicate the movements of voters.

“A suitable time (for polls) is when the situation is normal, not in times of disaster, floods or storms. In the flood season, not only would movements be hampered but also there would be risks of disasters causing injuries or deaths.

“This is why the flood season is not the right time for holding polls,” he said when asked about a suitable time to call for GE15.

He also said Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) had not decided on its candidates for GE15.

Asked about GTA’s registration, Dr Mahathir, who is its pro tem chairman, said the Registrar of Societies (RoS) would give its response within a month of the submission of the party’s application.

On September 6 this year, the GTA pro tem committee met RoS Mohd Nawardi Saad to hand over related documents and discuss its registration.

GTA, which was formed on August 4, comprises Pejuang, Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra), Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) and Parti Perikatan India Muslim Nasional (Iman). — Bernama

WHEN shall we go to the polls again in thunder, lightning or in rain?

The above expression, which is paraphrased from a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth play, is merely to illustrate the overflowing enthusiasm and determination of Umno, particularly its president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in calling for a snap general election.

Zahid was recently quoted as saying that the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) was willing to even wade through floods that are expected to occur in the country’s impending monsoon season – if that is what it takes to have the 15th general election (GE15).

But his response would only reinforce the critics’ contention that BN would rather have the polls as soon as possible even if it means having to brave the floods and other challenges. Come what may.

To be sure, Ismail had also hinted that the polls would be held “soon” when he recently launched the election machinery of the BN youth wing.

If there’s any doubt to this unwavering determination to have a snap election, MCA president Wee Ka Siong chipped in to say that all parties must be prepared for any eventualities, including floods and general election.

It begs the question here, though, whether preparing for an early election should run concurrently with helping people to get ready to face the onslaught of the imminent floods. In short, what should be the priority in the interest of the people?

The worst-case scenario is that the common people, particularly those living in flood-prone areas, would have to contend with the hazards of rising water as well as the intrusion of electoral campaigns into their lives that are already inundated with many challenges.

Based on the past flooding incidents in the country, you could imagine some of the flood victims would be desperate enough to scale to their rooftops in the attempt to save their lives from the rising water and salvage whatever valuables, if possible. Voting would be the last thing on their mind for people in such dire circumstances.

The unfortunate ones might succumb to the rushing water, especially when resources that could save lives would have been diverted to electioneering activities instead.

Incidentally, some of the schools that are normally converted into evacuation centres would be turned into polling stations, thus adversely affecting the urgent needs of flood victims.

Not only are the lives of these people being at stake, they may also be deprived of the democratic right to vote and choose a government. In other words, the turnout may be low.

Even if the polls are held before the monsoon season, as suggested by Zahid and compatriots, some people may feel discouraged to return to vote, particularly in constituencies that are flood-prone.

The time available should be used to put into place flood mitigation mechanisms as well as other forms of preparation by the people.

As far as the government is concerned, it should use the time to address some of the challenges, such as the falling ringgit, rising cost of living and improving the economy – instead of getting busy preparing for the general election.

To be sure, there are indeed detractors from outside and within BN.

Bersih, for instance, is opposed to a snap election as it is concerned that the Election Commission may have to spend additional money to run it during the monsoon season. The additional sum would be better used for the benefit of the people, especially the poor and the needy.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is an Umno leader, is also against an early election as he is troubled by the likelihood that – as mentioned above – many schools would be used as polling centres as opposed to much-needed shelters for flood victims.

A higher transmission of waterborne diseases as a result of the floods is also weighing on his mind.

Given the above scenario, it would be insensitive to the welfare and problems of the ordinary people if the polls are held immediately.

Demanding for an early election in – to borrow Macbeth again – thunder, lightning or in rain, is indeed disturbing.