The strict SOPs put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 during the Melaka state election have left a marked change in atmosphere in the historic state as candidates navigate the challenges of campaigning in the so-called new normal.
The ban on political talks or ceramahs and house-to-house visits, a staple during any normal election, have meant a much quieter build-up compared to that of pre-pandemic polls, and even the flags and posters put up around the state do not convey the same cheer and energy as they did before.
A lecturer at an institution of higher education in Lendu who declined to be named said many people, especially the senior citizens, remain concerned over the threat of Covid-19.
“I do not think that many will turn out to vote, especially from among the older people,” he told MalaysiaNow when met in Alor Gajah.
The Election Commission however is more optimistic and is estimating a 70% voter turnout for the Melaka polls.
This is even higher than the 66.61% turnout seen during the Sabah state election last year.
But the lecturer said there are no big issues this time to galvanise voters, adding that the Melaka polls were caused merely by the squabbling of politicians.
He was referring to the move by four state assemblymen to withdraw their support for the chief minister, Sulaiman Md Ali, resulting in the dissolution of the state legislative assembly.
The four were Idris Haron (Sungai Udang), Nor Azman Hassan (Pantai Kundor), Norhizam Hassan Baktee (Pengkalan Batu) and Noor Effandi Ahmad (Telok Mas).
“Many people are struggling just to put food on the table,” the lecturer said. “The mood of voters is also not encouraging.”
Even in WhatsApp groups, he said, there has been no swapping of political stories unless one or two members share messages displaying graphics of their preferred candidates.
“Even then, no one wants to respond. Everyone is lethargic, unlike the last general election where family chat groups were filled with political chit-chat,” he said.
With physical campaigning strictly off limits, candidates have been forced to take their battles to the digital arena.
While some struggled with a slow start, most are now working hard to get their campaigning messages through on social media.
DAP, for example, live streams a talk show on its Facebook page every night.
Even so, the party machinery of various groups is often slow to inform the media about the movement of candidates. Only a handful of schedules can be gleaned each day, and only after continued questioning by members of the media.
Still, campaigns are expected to pick up the pace, and not everyone is apathetic about the upcoming polls.
Mohd Azri, 29, works at an audit firm in Ayer Keroh and does his best to keep up with issues in the state.
His family members are also up to date with political developments although they are not inclined towards any party in particular.
Azri, who is registered to vote in the Serkam state constituency, is eager to head to the polling booth come Nov 20.
The Melaka election will witness three-way fights among the country’s main political blocs: Perikatan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional, with 112 nomination papers received by the EC.
Putra and Iman will also contest the state election, along with 22 independent candidates.