Not safe to have GE15 this year, govt told

Health activists have cautioned the government against calling for a general election until there is an appreciable improvement in the Covid-19 situation.

Azrul Mohd Khalib.

(FMT) –  Azrul Mohd Khalib of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy and former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said there should not be any eagerness to have the election this year just because last December’s Sarawak election did not lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Azrul told FMT he believed holding a general election at this time would be a gamble even though more and more adults nationwide were receiving booster jabs against the virus.

He said: “People will still get infected. Some will be very ill and some hospitalised. It would be better for any general election to be held in 2023, which should see the country in a more improved and confident state compared to this year.”

Lee noted that the Sarawak election, held on Dec 18, took place before Omicron became a concern.

On the same day as the election, 13 Omicron Covid-19 cases were detected in Malaysia, all of which were imported. However, the number ballooned to 245 on Jan 6 and included 12 locally transmitted cases.

“We need to watch the evolution of Omicron in Malaysia and the world before we can draw any conclusions about the safety of holding GE15,” Lee told FMT. “It will take another three to five months before the current Omicron wave ends.”

Dr Lee Boon Chye.

He said booster jabs would be key to ensuring the safety of holding the election.

According to the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee, 40% of Malaysia’s adult population have received their booster doses as of Jan 16.

Azrul said holding GE15 would not be an issue if the only variant in Malaysia was Omicron, but he expressed concern over the deadlier Delta strain, which is still the dominant variant in the country.

“Virologists monitoring the pandemic are warning of new variants emerging in the near future due to vaccine inequity in countries which have not been able to vaccinate even a third of their populations,” he said.

There is speculation that Johor may hold a snap state election following last month’s death of Kempas assemblyman Osman Sapian of Bersatu. Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub has said a general election should be held if the state decided to go to the polls.

FMT has reported that some Umno MPs were hoping to trigger GE15 by opposing the bill to amend the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act, expected to be tabled when Parliament convenes for its March session.