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Year-end not the right time for GE15, say experts

They say that the 1999 polls, which were held during rainy conditions, should not be taken as a reference point for the election to come.

4 minute read
Pedestrians shield themselves from the rain with umbrellas as they cross a street in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.
Pedestrians shield themselves from the rain with umbrellas as they cross a street in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

Speculation of a year-end general election has sparked much debate over the timing which would coincide with the annual floods.

Several quarters have expressed concern over the possibility of the 15th general election (GE15) taking place in November or December, saying the focus at that point should be on managing the floods and mitigating their effects.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) has forecast continuous heavy rain in the country from mid-November. According to MetMalaysia, the northeast monsoon which is active during that period could give rise to major floods.

Last year’s year-end floods in Malaysia displaced an estimated 70,000 people and claimed over 50 lives, causing the nation to suffer economic losses of between RM5.3 billion and RM6.5 billion.

Whether or not the timing is appropriate, holding a general election during the rainy season would be nothing new in Malaysia as GE10 in 1999 took place in the month of November.

Experts and political observers Bernama spoke to however are not in favour of GE15 taking place at a time when floods are expected.
Not appropriate
Meteorologist Azizan Abu Samah said the November 1999 election could not be used as a reference point due to the differences in weather conditions then and now.  
The major floods in Malaysia, including those in 2021, 2014 and 1971, were linked to the La Nina phenomenon, he said, adding that the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) has predicted that the effects of La Nina and a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) will bring above-normal rainfall in November this year.

As such, there is a high possibility of major floods occurring in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Johor.

"In November 1999 (GE10), Malaysia was also influenced by La Nina but at that time, the IOD index was neutral, so conditions then were different compared to the (conditions in the) 2021-2022 period.

"This means at that time (1999), the stimulus for above-normal rainfall was not as strong as it is now due to the simultaneous effects of La Nina and neutral IOD," he said.

Besides ASMC, he said, the Australian Meteorological Bureau and MetMalaysia have also forecast above-normal rainfall in November and December.

"In terms of the weather, I think February is a more suitable month for GE15," he told Bernama.    
Not prepared
Meanwhile, Nor Shahidah Mohd Nazer, an expert in engineering geology and soil mechanics, said no election should be held during the rainy season as the ensuing floods would constitute a natural disaster that could cause untold hardships for the affected people.

"Not only are their homes submerged in water, their cars, household items and possessions are also ruined by the floodwaters. Sometimes, there’s even loss of life during a flood.

"When floods occur, the victims are more focused on flood management efforts and their woes, certainly not on other matters such as the general election," she told Bernama.

Nor Shahidah, who is a senior lecturer at the Department of Earth Sciences and Environment at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said Malaysia was not fully prepared to deal with such natural disasters.

Even though efforts have been made by the authorities towards this end, she said, the government was still looking for effective flood-mitigation solutions.

She said a complete flood-mitigation plan must be put in place for the nation to be more prepared to deal with the annual floods.

Citing the flood-mitigation projects planned for high-density areas such as Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam, she said they were still in the implementation stage, with some of the projects yet to take off.

She said Kuala Lumpur City Hall had also proposed the construction of a high-capacity underground water storage tunnel as a long-term solution to address the problems posed by flash floods, but that this would take some time to materialise due to its massive scale.

"As of now, we have not reached the level (where the nation is fully prepared to deal with floods), so I would like to emphasise that it’s best to avoid having an election during the flood season," she added.
Voter turnout
Political analyst Jeniri Amir said having the general election during the rainy season would have a negative impact on the percentage of votes cast on polling day.

"A high voter turnout percentage is necessary to get the mandate of the people," he said.

"On election day, we must ensure a high voter turnout of at least 70 or 75%, not below 60 or 50%."
If GE15 is held in the midst of floods, he said, it could have big implications from a demographic point of view. 

"Those who come to vote will reflect the 'representative voice'… this is why we want more people to come out and vote," he said.

He added that the government would be saddled with a huge expenditure if GE15 is held in the midst of floods as it would have to make allocations for conducting the election as well as managing the floods and providing aid to the victims.

In January this year, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob allocated RM1.4 billion to be channelled as aid to the victims of the major floods that struck several states in December last year.

Jeniri said although a general election was held during the rainy season once in 1999, based on records and data, it was clear that the authorities would try to avoid calling an election in November, December or even January.

"We must rely on the data, statistics and advice of MetMalaysia and the EC (Election Commission) and should not risk having the election at a time when we are facing challenging weather conditions," he added.

However, he said he was confident that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, prime minister and EC would take careful consideration and seek the advice of the relevant agencies before deciding on the election date.