Top posts

Featured Posts

Sarawak takes centrestage

THE 10th state election is going to be a keenly-contested affair. It pits Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in what will be his final election against a more organised and ambitious Opposition.

Taib, who has announced his decision to retire some time after the state election, will be looking to extend Barisan Nasional’s hold in Sarawak and preserve the state’s reputation as the ruling coalition’s “fixed deposit”.
All fired up: Young Bidayuh girls posing in their traditional costume. Sarawakians will decide on their future come polling day on April 16.

A strong victory for Barisan is likely to point the way for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to call an early general election.

Barisan’s string of victories in recent by-elections, including the latest two in Merlimau (Malacca), and Kerdau (Pahang), in early March, had boosted confidence among the coalition’s leaders that it still has the people’s support.

All fired up: Young Bidayuh girls posing in their traditional costume.
Sarawakians will decide on their future come polling day on April 16.

Barisan suffered an unexpected setback when it lost the Sibu by-election last year, following the death of its long-serving MP Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew.

Barisan was confident of retaining the seat but was trumped by DAP’s Wong Ho Leng, who won with a slim majority of 398 votes over the SUPP candidate, Robert Lau Hui Yew.

This defeat, in what had been a Barisan stronghold, indicated the level of unhappiness among Chinese voters on various issues, from land, jobs and education to good governance, accountability and transparency.

Barisan was also taken aback by the Opposition’s “street-style” tactics, led by energetic DAP leaders from Peninsular Malaysia.

This led to the tabling of a motion to publish a White Paper in the state assembly last November, aimed at checking the disruptive activities of individuals, organisations and media from outside Sarawak.

The White Paper is believed to be nearing completion and contains a provision to prohibit politicians from peninsular Malaysia from entering the state if they are deemed to be a threat to security.

One question hanging over this election is whether the Chinese vote will swing back to Barisan or stay with the Opposition in urban areas like Kuching.

Related to this is the political survival of SUPP, which suffered badly in the last state election in 2006 when it lost eight seats.

Six of those went to DAP and one each to PKR and SNAP. (However Dr Johnical Rayong, who won Engkilili on a SNAP ticket, has since joined SUPP.)

While bread-and-butter issues such as land premiums and rising prices will strike a chord with voters, those in urban areas are also likely to be concerned about matters like corruption, social and economic injustice and the wealth attributed to Taib and his family by websites like the hard-hitting Sarawak Report.

Urban voters also have better access to the Internet, enabling them to turn to blogs, social networking sites and online news portals for information.

As such, cyber campaigns could have an important bearing on this election.

Then there is the matter of the seizure of Bahasa Malaysia bibles at the Kuching and Klang ports and the conditions imposed by the Home Ministry for their release.

Local Christian leaders have spoken up to express their dismay over the stamping of the bibles with a Government seal and serial numbers, describing it as a restriction on freedom of religion as enshrined in the Constitution.

The Opposition is likely to use this as one of its issues in the election. Another hot topic for the Opposition will be native customary rights (NCR) land. The state government says it is developing NCR land through joint-venture schemes to benefit native landowners and improve their economic standards.

The Opposition calls it land grabbing. Whose point of view will prevail, especially in rural areas?

However, the rural electorate are by and large still supportive of Barisan. There are those who feel that the state government has looked after their welfare over the years and there is therefore no need to rock the boat.

Others who still lack access to roads, water and electricity may feel they have no choice but to keep voting Barisan so as not to be left out of development.

This makes it tricky for the Opposition to make inroads in rural areas. The Opposition also lacks the resources and machinery at Barisan’s disposal to campaign effectively over large tracts of difficult terrain to reach voters.

Nevertheless, the Opposition is more organised this time and is making a concerted effort to deny Barisan a two-thirds majority come polling day. This could be derailed if PKR and SNAP in particular cannot come to agreement on seat allocations. The tension between both parties over overlapping seat claims appears to have reached a point of no return.

If this is the case, their intention of facing Barisan one-to-one is unlikely to materialise and would split the Opposition vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog