No issue if Malaysia’s general election is held during monsoon season: UMNO president Ahmad Zahid
KUALA LUMPUR: United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said there should be no issue if a general election is held during the upcoming monsoon season, as it has been done before.
He accused the opposition of highlighting this in a bid to influence voters into thinking that holding the polls at this time is tantamount to exposing them to the risk of floods.
In a statement on Monday (Sep 19), Ahmad Zahid, who is also the chairman of the Barisan Nasional (BN) wrote: “The opposition forgot that their last former PM Mahathir himself held a general election in November 1999 and it was not a big issue.”
Back in 1999, the budget for 2000 was presented to the Lower House on Oct 29 by then finance minister Daim Zainuddin. But the parliament was soon dissolved on Nov 10.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), has said that the monsoon season in the country normally starts from September until the end of the year.
On Monday, Ahmad Zahid argued that the opposition’s actual concern is not with the floods, but with its fear of losing the election.
He said the opposition was worried that it would lose owing to its failure to deliver on its previous election’s promises.
“This is why they need time to incite the people not to vote for BN,” said Ahmad Zahid, adding that BN will not give them this opportunity.
During the launch of the BN Youth election machinery last Saturday, Ahmad Zahid, who has been pushing for early polls, said the coalition was willing to wade through flood waters to campaign for the 15th General Election (GE15) if it was held during the monsoon season.
His statement drew flak from the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, who were concerned that holding the election near the end of the year may risk voters getting caught in floods.
"REFERENDUM" AGAINST ELECTION THIS YEAR: OPPOSITION
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Rafizi Ramli has called for a public referendum for the people to voice their objection to the possibility of GE15 being held during the monsoon season.
Rafizi said that the move was to demonstrate the public's displeasure with UMNO and Ahmad Zahid for the latter’s willingness to hold the general election during the monsoon season.
In a statement on Sunday, Rafizi said that the referendum would be held digitally in a week’s time, to urge the federal and state governments to instead focus on preparing the country for the floods.
"Recent flood tragedies, which have caused loss of property and lives, should serve as a lesson to political parties to not disregard issues of climate change,” he said.
Referring to Ahmad Zahid's remarks that BN was willing to brave the floods in the event of polls, Mr Rafizi said this demonstrated how the UMNO leader was out of touch with the reality facing the public.
Another opposition politician, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, president of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA), also criticised Ahmad Zahid’s remarks.
Describing it as “crazy”, Syed Saddiq said holding the election during the monsoon period was killing the people for the sake of power.
“Imagine this year, floods and elections? Ministers focused on the votes, the people will die. This is crazy work,” said the Muar MP in a tweet on Sunday.
Later on Monday, Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa said Ahmad Zahid’s statement on holding the general election during the flood season has been misunderstood.
The UMNO politician was quoted as saying by the Star that many misinterpreted Ahmad Zahid’s statement as a sign of BN’s insensitivity towards the welfare of the people in pursuit of political goals, which is not true.
"The statement has been misunderstood, as no policy statement on the election has been officially released yet,” Mr Annuar said.
He added that what Ahmad Zahid meant was that in the event of a flood, the UMNO election machinery would still be ready to operate.
Mr Annuar agreed that holding the 15th general election amid floods would be inappropriate, Free Malaysia Today reported.
He said Zahid’s statement was the latter’s personal view on the matter.
“It is rare for a country to hold elections during a natural disaster. If we hold (elections) in an unfavourable atmosphere, the percentage of votes will be low and that will not be a good image for the country,” he was quoted as saying.