Kota Kinabalu, Sabah — The Election Commission (EC) has announced 26 September as the polling date for Sabah snap state election which will see 73 state assembly seats being contested.
Its deputy chairman Azmi Sharom said the two-week campaigning period will commence from 12 – 26 September.
“Early voting will be on 22 September,” he said during a press conference on Monday (17 Aug).
The state polls were called when Head of State Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin dissolved the assembly on 30 July at caretaker chief minister Shafie’s direction in a pre-emptive move to prevent a toppling by former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman after some 13 assemblymen defected to support Musa.
Azmi said that 1,124,598 voters will be eligible to vote on 26 September, including 1.1 million regular voters, 9,448 military personnel and their spouses, 11,423 policemen and spouses and 81 overseas voters.
The EC expects to see a voter turnout of 70 per cent as some outstation voters will not be able to vote without the postal voting service.
When asked about these arrangements amidst a pandemic, he assured voters that there will be improved standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on their experience at the Chini and the Slim by-elections.
The Chini by-election, which also had a 70 per cent voters turnout rate, showed that crowds can be manageable with the SOPs in place, he said.
“In fact, we hope that we can expedite the process now by keeping the same SOPs in place but streamlining the process. We are confident we can carry it out even faster, while still being safe,” he said, adding that they had collaborated with the National Security Council and Health Ministry to come up with the guidelines.
Azmi confirmed that the commission will be broadcasting the counting phase live.
“There will be 332 additional streams to avoid crowds, making it a total of 2,613 streams and additional lines for the handicapped,” he said.
The election is expected to cost about RM186 million (S$60.7 million). 64 nomination centres and vote counting centres will be set up on that day.
When asked if the imminent judgement on a court case calling for an injunction to stop the polls played any role in the polling date, Azmi said that they have not been issued a court order on the matter.
“We have not received any advice from the court so we will carry on the process,” he said.
Former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman and 32 assemblymen have filed a suit against the EC, Juhar and Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal in an effort to stop the polls, claiming that Juhar was wrongly-advised to dissolve the state assembly.
The court had set Friday (21 Aug) to be the date where it will judge if Juhar’s decision should be taken to trial.