Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sarawak elections: GPS’ Opposition to DAP puts Pakatan, PKR’s ambitions in a bind, suggest analysts


Sarawak elections: GPS’ Opposition to DAP puts Pakatan, PKR’s ambitions in a bind, suggest analysts

A boat crosses the Sarawak river near the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building in Kuching, November 24, 2021. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — Some political analysts said Pakatan Harapan (PH) may well come out of the 12th Sarawak state elections in December with nothing but the shirts on its backs at the rate things are going.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said PH bringing up issues of corruption involving Barisan Nasional (BN) figures in Sarawak will likely not have as much traction with voters, unlike in Peninsular Malaysia.

He claimed this is because East Malaysians do not care about Peninsular-centric issues and most often scorn these politicians for only turning up during elections.

“So hopes are very dim that they could turn the tables against Sarawak's local leaders, what more if it concerns PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu) figures or even the governor himself and his family.

“They wouldn't want to risk being blocked from entering Sarawak again, as happened in the past. The grim reality of Sarawakian politics is that peninsula-based parties are never able to make much headway there.

“GPS not wanting to co-operate with DAP leaves PH in a permanent dilemma in Sarawak. It's possible to imagine a scenario of PKR again emerging from a state's elections with zero seats, while DAP maintains its urban Chinese-based strongholds,” Prof Fauzi said.

He also pointed to PH’s defeat in the Melaka state elections despite all the allegations surrounding Umno’s state chapter there as another clear indication.

Expressing similar sentiments, Senior Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun said Sarawak PKR has essentially been decimated after the departure of both Baru Bian and Larry Soon.

“Yet the state party still has the amazing guts of trying to contest many seats, even if coming up against their PH partner DAP. It would indeed be a miracle if they could somehow win a single seat with their disorganised party structure,” said Oh.

“DAP, in a similar vein, appears to be also embroiled in power struggles within the state party. However, as with Melaka, DAP even in its worst shape retains substantial support in the urban seats, which they are expected to once again win handsomely.

“It is mainly in the suburban seats where they might possibly run up against the increasingly formidable PSB (Parti Sarawak Bersatu), in addition to their traditional enemy SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party).”

At the moment, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) are the front runners to win the upcoming elections. Led by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, the party said it is focused on stability which is in sharp contrast to the current political climate with party-hopping culture among politicians.

GPS is made up for PBB, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Prof Azmi Hassan said the main attraction for voters was Baru Bian who has moved to Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).

The Ba'Kelalan state assemblyman was formerly from PKR and decided to switch allegiances during the Sheraton move.

“PKR will not only struggle to retain their existing three seats but win new seats as well. PH is disorganised and can’t come to terms which seats they will contest and are seemingly contesting against each other,” said Azmi.

At dissolution, PH only held five out of the 82 seats in the state assembly ― all of them by DAP.

It had previously held 10 seats after the 2016 state election (seven DAP and three PKR).

With rising airfares and people struggling financially, Azmin said voter turnout is a concern as well.

This is due to many East Malaysians currently working in Peninsular Malaysia, and flying home to vote may now be a luxury rather than a necessity.

“We don’t know the exact percentage of outstation voters in Melaka but if it’s around the 30 to 35 per cent mark, it will be similar in Sarawak.” where the voter turnout was 65 per cent,” he said.

“This is why it’s not too late for the Election Commission (EC) to allow postal voting so the percentages go higher. As for airfare even from Sabah to Sarawak it’s expensive so hopefully, the EC can look into this before December 19.”

“Sabahans and Sarawakians typically fly back for harvest festivals and Christmas. Now that the voting day is so close yet so far away from Christmas, it is simply economically infeasible for them to fly back specifically to cast the vote,” Oh added.

The Sarawak state elections has been fixed for December 18 with nominations on December 6 and early voting scheduled for December 14.

Polls were initially scheduled before the nationwide Emergency was declared from January 12 until August 1 to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The state legislative assembly was due to dissolve automatically on June 7, with polls to have been held within 60 days according to the state constitution.

On July 31, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong proclaimed a fresh Emergency for Sarawak from August 2 until February 2, 2022, to further suspend the state election due to the Covid-19 threat.

However, the Agong consented to terminating the statewide Emergency on November 3 with the state assembly simultaneously dissolved, paving the way for the state election to be called.

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