With the State Election coming up in less than three months time, the political atmosphere in Sarawak is getting warmer, though Sarawakians don’t really get crazy about it, at least not in the way Malaysians look forward to the 14th General Election which is expected in two years time.
For sure an air of festivity will come, but it is going to be just another normal state election; with a more or less foregone conclusion that Barisan Nasional will win with a two third majority. The only point of interest will be how many seats DAP will win this time and how the Chinese community will vote. It is also a foregone conclusion that majority of the Chinese will vote for DAP, but the issue is whether there will be an increase or decrease of Chinese support for the party this time around.
In the recent past, Chinese voters always gave majority support to DAP. In the 2006 State Election, 40.4% of the Chinese voted for BN, but in the 2011 State Election the figure was only 24.6%. In a way, the Sarawak Chinese voting pattern actually led the voting trend of their Peninsular Malaysian counterpart. So, Sarawak Chinese are smarter as they provided inspiration as to how the rest of the Malaysian Chinese should vote! This is an important factor to observe in the coming state election. If more Sarawak Chinese get fed up of being in the opposition, we should expect an increased Chinese support for BN. This might as well happen if the Chinese feel that their attempt to be king maker in Malaysian politic is getting them nowhere. Why fight a losing battle, might as well join the BN bandwagon and benefit more!
Chief Minister’s Popularity
The popularity of the new Chief Minister provides another and a stronger challenge to DAP and this will dictate the voters’ mood in this election. It will not be our PM’s misadventure that affect them, as in Sarawak local issues will likely dominate the political campaign. 1MDB and political donations are largely seen as UMNO problems, so Sarawak BN can distance themselves from these issue. For those who do no know, UMNO does not operate in Sarawak.
A survey on the popularity of Tan Sri Adenan Satem as the Chief Minister was conducted by The Merdeka Center in April 2015. The Survey agreed that 68% of the respondents were satisfied with the performance of the state government and 74% for the Chief Minister’s performance.
The Survey findings indicated that Sarawak main issues at that time was GST with 15% citing it, inflation 15%, public infrastructure 9% and national economy 7%. However, the study found out that the list of issues that required state government attention are slightly different and are as follows:
Fighting corruption 38%
creating jobs 26%
improve public infra in rural areas 25%
fighting inflation 20%
protect NCR land 19%
Kindly note that protection of Native Customary Land at 19% is actually very high on the list of the Dayaks only. It is relegated to fourth position only because other races do not likely put it as their major issue.
In fact, DAP and PKR are seen to be adopting a new strategy to contest seats in the rural areas by trying to be the champion for the NCR land issue, besides playing up the religious issues.
My contacts with some Chinese friends indicate that there would be slight shift in Chinese voter sentiment in favour of BN, but wouldn’t be enough to loosen DAP’s grip on the community. While there is not likely any problem for BN with the Muslim community, support from the Dayak community may erode slightly, but would not likely affect the favourable election outcome for BN.
Creation of New Seats
The current standing in the Sarawak DUN is BN with 55 seats, DAP 12, PKR 3 and Independent 1. There were a total of 71 seats contested in the 2011 State Election.
With the recent creation of 11 new state seats, there are now 82 seats up for grab. Of the eleven new seats, one is in the majority Chinese area while the balance are in the Malay/Melanau and Dayak Areas.
It is fairly reasonable to expect that all new seats in the Bumiputera areas will be won by BN, while DAP’s chance in the one new area is not quite certain, depending on racial compostion here as well as the Chinese voter sentiment in this state election.
How the Chinese will vote in the coming state election will not likely have major impact on its outcome, as demonstrated in the last election when only 24% of them voted for BN candidates, although any improvement will be welcome by BN. As indicated in the Merdeka Center Survey, there is already an improvement in Chinese sentiment on the Sarawak state government and the Chief Minister. Any such improvement will likely enhance BN performance not only in this state election. but also in the 2018 General Election throughout the country.
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