Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Polling on a weekday possible

Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof (second from left) speaking to Argentina’s ambassador to Malaysia Maria I. Rendon during a briefing for diplomats on the 13th General Election at Wisma Putra yesterday. On the left is Deputy Secretary-General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Datuk Husni Zai Yaacob. Pic by Fariz Iswadi Ismail.

POLLING for the 13th General Election can take place on a weekday and it does not have to be on a weekend.

In dismissing the notion that polling has to be held on a weekend, Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said it was possible for polling day to fall on a working day.

Schools used as polling centres could be closed to make way for the exercise, he said.

“If deemed necessary, a holiday could also be called to make way for the 13th General Election,” he said after briefing foreign envoys on the election at Wisma Putra here yesterday.

“Even if it is not a holiday, employers (in both the public and private sectors) are obliged by law to allow their employees to go out and vote.”

Provisions to allow employees’ time off to cast their votes, he said, fell under the purview of the Human Resources Ministry.

Yesterday, the New Straits Times had frontpaged a report on analysts and pundits predicting April 20 as the likeliest date for nomination, and Thursday, May 2, to be the probable polling date.

Some of them had said that if nomination day fell on April 20, then the earliest possible date for polling, taking into consideration the minimum 11-day campaigning period, would be May 1, a public holiday that falls on a Wednesday.

They had argued that since May 1 was in the middle of the week, it was likely that a cuti peristiwa (a day off from work for an event) would be announced for Thursday, May 2, to carry out polling.

There were also those who predicted May 4 or 5 as possible dates for polling.

EC will announce the dates after a special meeting at its headquarters this afternoon. Aziz said EC would have to consider several factors before deciding on the dates.

"We do not want the date to coincide with any cultural or religious celebrations, or with other important or political events. We even have to consult the Meteorological Services Department for weather forecasts."

Aziz, who held an hour-long briefing for about 110 diplomats from 70 countries, said polling need not be held during school holidays as well.

"It does not have to follow previous trends."

While most past general elections had been held either on a Saturday or Sunday, four were held on weekdays. In 1959, it was held on a Wednesday, in 1982 on a Thursday, in 1995 on a Tuesday and in 1999 on a Monday.

Deputy EC chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar told the New Straits Times that while polling could be carried out on a weekday, the commission's main concern was the 120,000 teachers who had volunteered to help out during polling.

"If it is held on a weekday, then schools will have to be closed not only because we are using some of the schools as polling centres but also because of the large number of teachers volunteering on polling day."

Schools, he said, made up 90 per cent of the 9,000 polling centres.

In another departure from the norm, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is expected to meet Barisan Nasional members of parliament and state assemblymen to rally them to stand by the top leadership's choice of candidates to be fielded this time around.

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