By-election: Polling day on Jan 17
Beh Lih Yi & Ng Ling Fong | Dec 5, 08 11:43am
The Election Commission (EC) today announced that the Kuala Terengganu by-election will be held on Saturday, Jan 17, with nomination day fixed on Tuesday, Jan 6.
This means the parties will have a campaign period of 11 days.
The much-awaited announcement was made by EC deputy chairperson Wan Ahmad Wan Omar after chairing a meeting of commissioners at its headquarters in Putrajaya this morning.
The EC also said there will be 80,229 registered voters, including 1,035 postal voters.
The latest figure is slightly lower than the 80,325 voters recorded in March.
‘Most suitable date’
According to Wan Ahmad, the nomination and polling dates were fixed after taking into consideration the weather in the east coast, which is usually affected by floods due to year-end monsoon rains.
He said EC also took into consideration the fact that since 70 percent of the 877 officers and workers involved in the by-election are teachers, it would not be appropriate to hold the elections during the current school holidays.
“Jan 17 is the most suitable date. It will give sufficient time for the contesting parties to prepare for the by-election,” he told reporters during the question-and-answer session.
Wan Ahmad also said the use of indelible ink – long demanded by polls reform groups – will not be implemented in this by-election.
“We won’t be using indelible ink because EC made that decision prior to the general election, everybody is aware of the reason behind it – the constraints of law – and that reason stands,” he explained.
He reminded political parties that they can only start campaigning and put up election campaign materials such as banners, posters and flags after the completion of the nomination.
Two enforcement teams will be set up to monitor any irregularities during the campaigning period.
Conditions for independent observers
Meanwhile, Wan Ahmad said independent election monitoring group, Malaysians for Free and Fair Election (Mafrel) will be allowed to monitor the upcoming by-election with conditions.
“Mafrel observers will not be allowed to enter the polling station on polling day because the law prohibits anyone other than election workers, polling agents, voters, EC officials and individuals permitted by EC to enter the polling stations.
“They can observe what is happening in the polling station by just standing at the door because we already have polling agents sitting there from 8am to 5pm. It’s not necessary to have others there and disturb the process,” he said.
There will be 36 polling centres (the schools) and 143 polling stations (the classrooms).
The Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat fell vacant when Razali Ismail, also deputy education minister, died of heart attack while playing badminton in Genting Highlands last Friday.
Razali was a two-term incumbent and had contested on a BN-Umno ticket.
He defeated PAS vice-president Mohamad Sabu and 89-year-old Maimun Yusuf in the March 8 general election, winning with a slim majority of 628.
He bagged 32,562 votes against Mohamad’s 31,934 and independent candidate Maimun’s 685.
Second by-election after March polls
A tough fight is expected in the by-election as the seat has been a keen battleground for BN and the opposition in recent years.
In the past two general elections, the seat was won by BN with a majority of 628 votes (in 2008) and 1,933 votes (in 2004).
PAS won the seat in 1999, while BN took the seat in 1995, and in 1990 election, the seat went Umno splinter group, Semangat 46.
So far, Umno, PAS and Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia (Akim) – a PAS splinter group – have expressed interest in contesting the upcoming polls.
The Kuala Terengganu by-election will be the second by-election since the general election on March 8.
The first by-election was held on Aug 26 in Permatang Pauh, Penang, after incumbent Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail of PKR stepped down to pave the way for her husband Anwar Ibrahim to make a comeback in politics.
Anwar won with a thumping majority of 15,671 votes, defeating BN’s Arif Shah Omar Shah and Akim president Hanafi Hamat. The campaign period was 10 days.