Lingering Covid-19 fears, ‘tough’ election SOP may contribute to low voter turnout in Melaka

The Melaka state election is the first in the country where political parties and candidates are campaigning under a ‘new normal’.

Unlike the Sabah state election, which was held even before Malaysians were vaccinated, Melaka is in Phase 4 of the National Recovery Plan.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Election Commission imposed a total ban on all forms of physical campaigning. This includes walkabouts, ceramah and door-to-door visits.

While the authorities have encouraged online campaigning instead, it is an open secret that internet connectivity in the state is less than optimum.

Internet connection is not great in town, but it’s much worse in the rural areas.

However, that’s not stopping the younger contenders, including DAP’s Bemban candidate Tey Kok Kiew, Ayer Keroh’s Kerk Chee Yee, and Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Dira Abu Zahar, from using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to canvass for votes.

Other candidates are falling behind in the campaign trail.

Although time is running out, Twentytwo13 has learnt that there are still candidates who are only just now hiring people to help run their online campaigns.

While candidates have been urged to use the media and place loud hailers on their vehicles to deliver their campaign messages, locals say they don’t quite know what candidates are bringing to the table.

“The party flags are up, but so far, we don’t really see many messages on WhatsApp groups, nor do we hear much about what they have to offer,” said Ridzan Ahmad, from Ayer Keroh.

“Forget about Sabah. It appears we are ill-equipped to hold an election in the new normal. We just simply do not know what to do,” he said.

With less than nine days to polling day, and with tight standard operating procedures in place, the dreary, plodding campaign tempo is all too apparent.

BN’s deputy chairman, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan, yesterday urged the Election Commission to relook its standard operating procedure (SOP), claiming it was “too stringent” and “did not make sense”.

Claiming the difficult SOP had made it impossible for campaign workers to carry out their work, Mohamad said it was better to just sit at home.

The Melaka election has been labelled “a test case” for political parties in the country. And with a price tag of RM46 million, there is also talk on whether enough is being done to get people to go out and vote.

While some said they planned to return to Melaka to vote on Nov 20, others are adopting a wait-and-see approach.

“I have not made up my mind if I will go out to vote. Covid-19 is still lingering,” said a civil servant, also from Ayer Keroh, who requested anonymity.

“My mother and sister were at first excited to go to vote. But they have since changed their minds, out of fear of Covid-19.”

With nine days to go before polling day and millions at stake, observers are watching closely to see if the Melaka state election will achieve its intended purpose.

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