Justice minister urges NSC to allow ‘some form of campaigning’

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PETALING JAYA: National Security Council (NSC) should be “more creative” and allow relaxation of standard operating procedure for elections in Johor state, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

“Instead of saying ‘softening the SOP’, I would prefer the NSC to be more creative in allowing some form of campaigning in the Johor polls,” he said yesterday.

Wan Junaidi, who is a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Parliament and Law, said the relaxation of Johor’s electoral SOP would help ensure that democracy in the country remains vibrant under the new normal. .

He acknowledged that campaigning during an election has become the culture in Malaysia and should be allowed during the endemic phase.

He also noted that the NSC is aware of some of the suggestions that have been made and is likely to consider them, with health being the priority.

Johor’s state assembly was dissolved on January 22, paving the way for state elections to be held within 60 days.

The Electoral Commission (EC) will meet on February 9 to determine and set the nomination and ballot dates.

On Tuesday, its chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh said the EC was still discussing the electoral SOP with the health ministry and the NSC.

A strict SOP has been put in place for the Melaka polls, prohibiting large gatherings and door-to-door campaigning. There have been complaints from candidates, especially new faces, who have struggled to present themselves to voters.

Wan Junaidi said one of the suggestions was to allow more frequent but reduced campaign events in strict compliance with Covid-19 restrictions.

“In the Melaka elections, candidates were allowed to hold between two and three rallies in a district.

“It could be increased to 10 rallies (for Johor). The number of participants could be limited between 100 and 200,” he added.

He said more designated places should be identified to hold such gatherings.

“Gatherings should be supervised to ensure the SOP is followed.

“Political parties or candidates must justify the location of the rally and must obtain permission from the local council or the police based on the SOP,” he added.

Worried about a possible spike in Covid-19 cases, Wan Junaidi cited the example of polls in the state of Sarawak where there was adherence to the SOP which prevented the spread of the virus.

He also said higher vaccination and booster rates are also factors that should be considered by the NSC.

“For this to work, there needs to be self-discipline, especially from the political parties themselves.

“Rallies are not about parties showing their numbers of supporters,” he added.

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