Updated 5:24pm, 27 April 2009
PUTRAJAYA, 27 April 2009: The Penanti by-election will be held on 31 May, the Election Commission (EC) said today.
Nomination day will be held on 23 May, its chairperson Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof announced at a press conference.
“On 17 April, EC received a letter from the Penang state assembly speaker, confirming that the Penanti seat was vacant after incumbent Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin had tendered a resignation letter dated 19 March.
“After studying the validity of the speaker’s announcement to EC and attached copy of a declaration letter from Mohammad Fairus with regard to his resignation, EC is convinced that the seat is indeed vacant,” he told reporters here today.
Mohammad Fairus, 33, from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) had announced his resignation as Penanti state assemblyperson on 16 April, to pursue his studies and to clear his name from accusations hurled at him.
He had earlier resigned as Penang Deputy Chief Minister I following allegations that he was involved in corruption, a claim that led to an investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
However, the MACC on 23 April declared that it did not have substantial evidence to charge him.
During the 8 March 2008 general election, Mohammad Fairus polled 7,346 votes to beat Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Datuk Abdul Jalil Abdul Majid by a 2,219-vote majority.
Abdul Aziz said the registration of voters list to be used for the coming by-election would be the updated one as of 16 April 2009, which comprises 15,384 registered voters, made up of 15,360 normal voters and 24 postal voters.
From the total, 72.68% are Malay Malaysians, 24.22% Chinese Malaysians, 2.39% Indian Malaysians, and 0.71% others.
Abdul Aziz said since 31 May is a Sunday, EC expects an 80% turn out on polling date because the 8 March general election registered an 82.1% turn out.
He added that Dewan Besar Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara (IKBN) in Bukit Mertajam would be the venue for nomination and also become the main tallying centre.
“There will be nine voting centres involving eight schools and a community hall with 32 polling stations while 242 officers will be involved in the voting process,” he said.
Abdul Aziz reiterated that there was no delay in the announcement of the date for the by-election as claimed by some because it was done within 10 days, as provided by the law.
“It also had nothing to do with the Umno supreme council meeting on 24 April. If I had announced on the 11th or 12th day, then I agree there was a delay, he said.
He added that voters can check their status through the EC website www.spr.gov.my or through the Short Messaging Service (SMS) by typing SEMAK NO KAD PENGENALAN and sending it to 15888, starting 8 May.
“Voters can also contact the EC head office in Putrajaya by calling 03-8885 6500 or the Penang EC office at 04-261 7692,” he said.
No more pondok panas
Abdul Aziz also said the EC will strictly enforce regulations prohibiting campaigning on polling day in the Penanti state by-election. He said the prohibition covered canvassing for votes as well as setting up “pondok panas” (party kiosks) close to polling centres.
Political parties should make full use of the eight days of campaigning from 23 May until midnight of 30 May, he said.
“I want to begin strictly enforcing the prohibitions in Penanti. Voters must be able to go to the polling centres without any hindrance. If possible, we want to make this the culture in future elections,” he said.
Abdul Aziz said there was no necessity for the party kiosks where voters checked their voting streams as the EC already provided such a service.
“It’s redundancy. We will provide additional counters for this,” he said.
Abdul Aziz said the EC would have meetings with the police this week on the enforcement of the prohibition and on the limiting of the number of supporters on nomination day and during the announcement of the election results.
EC deputy chair Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said the party kiosks close to polling centres were a centre of tension as party supporters campaigned there.
He said the police, returning officers and EC officers could stop anyone from setting up these kiosks.
Election candidates and agents would be held liable for the party kiosks and individuals themselves would be held responsible for campaigning on polling day, he said.
Offenders could be fined RM5,000 and, by virtue of the offence, cannot be registered or listed as an elector in any election or picked as a candidate in any election for five years from the date of the offence.
“If the individual has been elected on that date, then the seat must be vacated,” he said.
Meanwhile in PUTRAJAYA, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the Umno political bureau will meet soon to decide whether a party representative will contest the Penanti state by-election in Penang.
“Wait. We will meet soon,” said Najib, who is Umno president and also chairperson of the political bureau.
Najib, is also chairperson of the Barisan Nasional (BN), had said earlier that he would also discuss the matter with BN component party leaders.
The prime minister had said that the BN might consider skipping the by-election because “forced” by-elections would be a waste of public funds and the BN also did not want to play to the tune of the opposition.
Najib spoke to reporters at the news conference to announce further liberalisation of the financial sector.
Asked about the EC’s decision to disallow party kiosks close to polling centres, Najib said it was a good move as it would provide for a peaceful atmosphere and prevent scuffles.
“A large number of supporters at these kiosks can lead to scuffles which can prevent voters from going to the polling centres,” he said. — Bernama