PUTRAJAYA, April 27 — The Election Commission (EC) today finally set May 31 as polling day for the Penanti state by-election in Penang.
Nomination day is set for May 23.
The announcement today ended days of intense speculation that the EC might reject the vacancy notification from the Penang assembly speaker, after former Penang Deputy Chief Minister Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin resigned on April 16.
The EC was supposed to reveal the dates three days ago but decided to delay it, resulting in the opposition questioning it’s independence but the commission said the postponement was caused by unresolved administrative matters.
“There is no delay, we postponed the announcement because we want to get an agreement from the returning officer and assistant returning officer, we needed to meet political parties on Thursday and we need permission from owners of the premises for nomination and counting,” said EC chairman Tan Sri Aziz Yusof when asked about the delay.
He also denied that the commission was waiting for the outcome of the Umno supreme council meeting last Friday before announcing the dates.
“Nothing to do with the supreme council meeting. We didn’t know anything about the meeting,” said Aziz.
He also told reporters that the EC would be more strict in enforcing election laws this time, including banning operation centres set up by political parties outside polling stations.
“No more pondok panas ... the centres are used by voters to check their registration details, the EC already sets up counters for this, so this time we are going to increase the number of counters,” said Aziz.
He added that the centres were normally used by supporters to campaign on polling day, which is an offence under the Election Offences Act.
“We have set the campaign period until midnight May 30. So on the polling day stop it,” he added.
But Aziz said political parties could still provide transportation facilities to voters.
On whether the commission would limit the number of supporters who turn up on nomination day, Aziz said there is no law stopping people from coming but he hoped that the political parties would take the initiative to reduce the number of supporters.
The Penanti by-election is the sixth since the general election last year and was described by Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak as a waste of public funds and the Prime Minister had indicated that Barisan Nasional (BN) could skip the contest.
In the general election last March, Fairus defeated Permatang Pauh Umno division chief Datuk Abdul Jalil Majid by 2,219 votes.
In 2004, Jalil won the Penang state seat by 667 votes.