Voters could also respond to a premature general election by snubbing the poll in protest, which would add further uncertainty to Umno’s chances of regaining power, citing elections in Spain, Austria, France and Taiwan where turnouts were as low as 30 per cent.
Umno would further lose popularity if it were to trigger a premature 15th general election during the Covid-19 pandemic, said political analysts.
Senior researcher at the O2 Malaysia think-tank, Anis Anwar Suhaimi, told Malay Mail Umno appeared to be pre-empting the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines in Malaysia and taking advantage of unfavourable views on the Perikatan Nasional government.
“Therefore, Umno’s popularity will continue to dwindle among voters, while PN (Perikatan Nasional) will continue to be favourable. Still, Umno’s chances in the election are far from over if they are directly fighting PH due to voters’ clear segmentation,” he said.
An O2 Malaysia survey last year found 63.5 per cent of respondents in favour of PN remaining the government of the day, with nearly three in four Barisan Nasional supporters also holding this view.
Persistent demands by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for snap polls while the Covid-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating have been roundly condemned by those who keenly follow Malaysia’s election politics.
They said such a call was irresponsible and reckless at a time when the Covid-19 infection rate is heading for the worst, adding that a general election is no guarantee of a solution to the current political quagmire.
They also rubbished Zahid’s reasoning that more than 30 countries have had general elections during the pandemic season.
Lee Hwok Aun, a senior fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, said holding elections at this time was “the height of irresponsibility”.
He also pointed out that other countries had held elections due to their governments’ mandate expiring.
“Some countries have held elections because terms have run their full course, and some have also held snap elections but when the pandemic has been a bit more under control.
“Even if some may have held elections while the pandemic is surging, why would Malaysia want to follow suit?” Lee told MalaysiaNow.
Authorities have warned of a collapse of the public healthcare system which has taken in tens of thousands of Covid patients since early last year, as well as of stricter lockdowns in badly affected states.
Election analyst Hisommudin Bakar said Zahid’s comparison with other countries was misplaced.
He said many countries which held elections in the past year had seen a spike in infections.
“Citing other countries as examples, or even the availability of vaccines, is not a valid excuse looking at the situation we have in Malaysia,” he added.
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, more than 60 countries have postponed their elections.
The US, South Korea, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Singapore and New Zealand are among those which held elections during the pandemic due to expiry of their terms.
But a day after the US presidential election, more than 91,000 new cases were reported.
“This call seems to be at the behest of all those who are facing cases in court,” she said, referring to the multiple corruption charges Zahid is facing.
“That those facing grave charges or who have been convicted are in positions to call the shots on when we must have elections is astounding enough,” she added.
Ambiga said unlike those of other countries, Malaysia’s electoral system is not prepared to do away with conventional voting which carries the risk of the virus spreading.
“Other countries may have had elections in the early days of the pandemic but many have systems in place like efficient postal and absentee voting systems, electronic voting and other such means by which huge crowds may be avoided,” she told MalaysiaNow.