SINGAPORE: Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Thursday (Jun 2) that Malaysia has to look at the “entire context” of its COVID-19 pandemic recovery before the 15th General Election (GE15) can be called.
Mr Khairy was responding to questions from reporters during his four-day visit to Singapore, during which he was asked if Malaysia was prepared, in terms of public health, to hold a General Election.
He noted that Malaysia has held three state elections recently - Johor, Sarawak and Melaka - and that there was “no corresponding increase in the number of COVID-19 cases” due to the polls.
However, he warned that Malaysia should also consider factors such as the economy and people’s livelihoods when deciding on whether to hold a GE.
“What I'm trying to say is that as far as public health is concerned, we can prepare for an election. But at the same time, I don't think one can just look at public health alone. We have to look at the entire context of recovery in Malaysia.
“Malaysia is just recovering, not just (in terms of) public health, but also the economy and people's livelihoods. So although we are faced with an inflationary environment right now, what we would like to do is to make sure that there is wind in the sails of the recovery first, before we think the timing would be right for a general election,” added Mr Khairy.
Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Wednesday that he would not delay elections, and that parliament would not be dissolved until the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was ready.
Mr Ismail Sabri, who is United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) vice-president said that discussions would be held with the BN leadership in determining the date for GE15.
"When we are ready, I will not even delay for a second to dissolve parliament, as agreed by the UMNO General Assembly. I will discuss with the top five in UMNO and the party's Supreme Council,” he said during a speech at Barisan Nasional’s convention held in conjunction with the coalition's 48th anniversary.
On Thursday, Mr Khairy, who is also UMNO Member of Parliament for Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, stressed that readiness also refers to whether Malaysia was ready in terms of public health, the momentum in economic recovery and whether BN itself is prepared for the polls.
He explained that Malaysia has to be on the lookout for new variants to ensure that there are no new waves of infection.
Mr Khairy said the public health situation was “okay” presently but stressed that he needs to be confident that it can be sustained.
On economic recovery, Mr Khairy acknowledged that Malaysia is being confronted with some inflationary pressure but he is confident that the country will be able to overcome this as it produces oil.
“Malaysia is lucky in a sense that we are an oil-producing country. We have palm oil. So we have some engines of growth that are pushing the economy forward. We want to get momentum there,” said Mr Khairy.
On BN’s readiness, Mr Khairy said that it was important to ensure that the coalition’s machinery was prepared “with the right resources” and the “right slate of candidates to contest”.
“It’s not a state election, It’s a general election. This is serious. And I think the PM is well aware that we need time to ready ourselves, both the country as well as the party,” said Mr Khairy.
An election is not due until Sep 2023 but Mr Ismail Sabri has been facing pressure from some quarters in UMNO to call for the general election to capitalise on their resurgent popularity as seen in the recent Johor and Melaka polls where they gained two-thirds majorities.
BN had lost the May 2018 general elections, the first time in its history.
Commenting on how some party leaders are calling for GE15 to be held now, Mr Khairy said: “We respect your views as party leaders but stay in your lane.
“Calling for action is the prime minister's lane, you're not in that lane. You’re in another lane.”