Penanti: EC to meet on April 22

(The Malaysian Insider) PUTRAJAYA, April 17 – In what could be a situation similar to Perak when it declared three state seats were not vacant, the Election Commission will meet on April 22 to determine the status of the Penanti seat vacated yesterday by embattled Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin.

EC chairmanTan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, when contacted by state news agency Bernama today, said the commission would only announce on April 24 the status of the state assembly seat and the date for the by-election if a vacancy occurred.

He comfirmed that  the Penang election director had received a notice of the seat's vacancy from the Penang state assembly speaker today and the notice had been faxed to the EC headquarters this morning.

Abdul Aziz said the original notice of vacancy and the resignation letter as Penanti state assemblyman would be brought to the EC Headquarters, here on Monday. He said the EC needed time to study in detail the vacancy and all aspects on the by-election before making an announcement.

The incumbent assemblyman had earlier quit as Penang deputy chief minister I on April 8 following allegations of being linked to illegal quarrying activities.

If a by-election is called, it will be the third polls for the 15,421 voters in Penanti within the Permatang Pauh constituency. They had voted in Election 2008 and later cast their ballots for PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's triumphant return to parliament last August 26 after his wife quit the seat.

First-timer Fairus took the seat with a majority of 2,219 by getting 7,346 votes against Barisan Nasional's Datuk Abdul Jalil Abdul Majid who only got 5,127 votes.

The 32-year-old double Masters holder said he resigned to enable him to concentrate fully on his post-graduate study besides clearing his name following the various allegations against him.

It is learnt that Penang PKR chief and Bayan Baru MP Datuk Zahrain Mohamed Hashim is the frontrunner to contest the by-election. The other candidate is deputy state PKR chief Dr Mansor Othman, who was recently named as one of two senators from Penang.

The PKR candidate for the by-election will not only be a state assemblyman but could also be nominated for the deputy chief minister I post reserved for the party by Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng. Anwar has been hesistant to name the two other PKR Malay assemblymen to that post.

The by-election will have to be held within 60 days of the vacancy, according to election rules. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today the by-election was unnecessary as it would take too much time, energy and money when the country should be focused on economic issues.

His Barisan Nasional has only won one out of five by-elections held since Election 2008 when the ruling coalition lost four more states and its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority. The Penanti by-election will not be decisive in changing the political equation in Penang or Malaysia.