KUALA LUMPUR – A snap general election held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia will cost approximately RM1.2 billion (S$392.7 million), said Takiyuddin Hassan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
Speaking at the committee stage debate of a supplementary bill, Mr Takiyuddin explained that the costs have increased from the reported estimate of RM500 million due to the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The last general election in 2018 only cost RM500 million, he stated.
In February former Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun, who is now the Parliament speaker, had said that snap polls would cost between RM750 million and RM800 million as a result of enhancements such as increase in polling centres and additional voting streams for people with special needs.
“So if all SOPs are followed then this is the (new) estimate,” said Mr Takiyuddin.
He added that the last five by-elections in the constituencies of Cameron Highlands, Semenyih, Rantau, Sandakan and Tanjung Piai cost a total of RM12.9 million.
Calls for snap polls from both political sides in hopes of stabilising Malaysia in uncertain times
There have been calls from both sides of the political spectrum since the beginning of June for Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassinto to hold a general election.
Dissent centred upon whether Mr Muhyiddin did actually command a majority in the 222-seat Parliament.
Mr Muhyiddin, who currently heads the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, was sworn in as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister on 1 March following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government where Dr Mahathir Mohamad also resigned unexpectedly.
Based on a vote to remove the previous parliament speaker during a sitting on 13 July, PN is believed to have 113 out of the 222 federal lawmakers, which is a marginal majority of two seats.
United Malays National Organisation’s (UMNO) deputy president Mohamad Hasan said in a Facebook post that Malaysia has not been in such an unstable political position since achieving independence.
Referring to Singapore’s upcoming election on 10 July, Mr Mohamad said the decision by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was made to ensure that the ruling government commands a good and convincing mandate.
“In the context of our country, it is better for the PN government led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to also do the same without further delay,” he remarked.
Malaysia’s development, prosperity and competitiveness are largely depending on political stability, which in turn affects and influences investments, economic activities and social peace, Mr Mohamad added.
The current situation makes it difficult for the government to pass critical Bills, including the budget, he said, adding that only a government with a strong mandate and a comfortable majority in parliament can function well and focus on rebuilding the economy.
“The country cannot be dragged into a flurry of uncertainties and the possibility of a change of government in a few months. This is not healthy for the country,” Mr Mohamad said.
Calling for the mandate to be returned to the people, he said the real power belongs to the people and not the political blocs created just to suit the needs of politicians.