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Is a snap general election a good idea amid Covid-19 spike?

Photograph: Benedict Lopez

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Many Malaysians may not have the appetite for sudden polls, given the grim situation the country is in, Mustafa K Anuar writes.

The possibility of snap polls has been bandied about in recent times amid a persuasive contention that the wafer-thin majority Perikatan Nasional enjoys in Parliament makes it necessary for it to go back to the electorate for a fresh mandate and a respectable majority.

In response, Pakatan Harapan has expressed its readiness to go to the polls too, although it would rather that the general election be postponed to a later date when the Covid-19 pandemic finally reaches, if at all, its lowest ebb.

However, the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, such as the emergence of new clusters, and a lackadaisical attitude of some Malaysians pertaining to observing standard operating procedures when appearing in public places, should put the idea of snap polls under intense scrutiny as it would have serious repercussions, particularly for the ordinary people and the nation.

Another surge of the pandemic could also mean the loss of many more lives.

In fact, the warning issued recently by the government that it may have to re-enforce the movement control order should the number of coronavirus cases reach three digits might suggest that snap polls would have to be a distant reality. To put it in perspective, a few countries, such as Spain, Brazil, Russia and Australia have already witnessed a surge of Covid-19 cases again, which the governments concerned and their citizens have to be prepared for.

For one thing, a general election at this juncture would put a severe strain on the national purse that has been shrinking, partly owing to the economic stimulus packages disbursed in the earlier phase of the pandemic to help the needy and kickstart the weak economy.

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Holding a general election amid the pandemic would also present a great deal of logistical challenges that may stretch limited resources.

Equally important, some Malaysians appear to have experienced political fatigue, ever since the so-called “Sheraton Move” that hurriedly gave birth to the PN government amid the pandemic.

The leapfrogging among flippant and scheming politicians has become a tiresome affair, especially for an electorate expecting meaningful social reform after the last general election.

People are also disillusioned by the rift that emerged within PH before its fall from grace, leaving some to wonder whether it was worth their while to have actively participated in the last electoral process. Perhaps they may only give a lukewarm electoral response, if at all, in the future.

Politics aside, another Covid-19 surge and a consequent movement control order would spell disaster, particularly for those in the bottom 40% category who have been struggling to put their heads above water ever since the coronavirus unleashed its wrath in the country. The poor and the marginalised would be badly hit again if a second surge of Covid-19 was to occur.

Unemployment would spike when business establishments and certain industries shut down under yet another movement control order,  leaving many penniless and driving their families into severe socioeconomic hardship.

Under such circumstances, having another general election soon after the last one may not be on the minds of many voters, especially those who might be saddled with a lot more financial and social problems if the pandemic worsens.

Ordinary Malaysians would expect the powers that be to know what to prioritise for the overall benefit of the populace in the face of a potential surge of Covid-19 cases.

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Source: The Malaysian Insight

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