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Opposition may capture nine to 12 seats

April 15, 2011

Political pundits think that Pakatan Rakyat's prediction of denying BN a two-thirds majority is far-fetched.

By Stephen Winfred

KUCHING: While the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) is expected to retain its two-thirds majority in the 71-seat Sarawak State Legislative Assembly, the opposition has been tipped to win between nine and 12 seats, at the state election tomorrow.

At the last state polls in 2006, the opposition managed to garner eight seats – DAP (six seats), and Sarawak National Party (SNAP) and PKR one each respectively.

Opposition diehards, however, believe that they would be able to deny the BN the two-thirds majority by emerging victorious in 20 to 25 constituencies, but this is a far-fetched prediction, say analysts and political pundits.

A seasoned BN campaigner told FMT that the opposition would capture, at most, 12 seats mostly located in urban areas.

He also said that BN was facing difficulty in three “Bumiputera” seats, namely Engkilili, Meluan and Ba Kelalan while its chances have improved in Ngemah and Pelagus.

Ngemah was won by independent Gabriel Adit, who is now Parti Cinta Sarawak (PCS) chairman, at the last state election.

In the urban constituencies, DAP and PKR are expected to make a clean sweep of the five urban seats in Kuching – Padungan, Pending, Batu Lintang, Kota Sentoasa and Batu Kawah.  At the last election, the opposition parties won in Padungan, Pending, Kota Sentosa and Batu Lintang.

In the central region, the DAP, apart from retaining Bukti Assek, is tipped to win Pelawan, (both in Sibu) and Repok in Sarikei but may lose Meradong (Bintangor) where incumbent Ting Tze Fui is facing a formidable challenge from SUPP’s Ling Kie King.

‘SOS’ distress

The DAP had even sent out a “SOS” distress call to party leaders, members and the voters to help the party face the onslaught by SUPP candidates, who are backed by the “Four Rich Foochows”. The term refers to four successful businessmen in the state based in Miri.

The DAP is also expected to retain Kidurong in Bintulu while making inroads in the northern region by winning the Pujut state constituency. The talk is that the opposition party was also focusing on Piasau, which is being contested by SUPP president Dr George Chan Hong Nam, under the BN banner.

“In Miri, we will win at least one seat – Pujut. We are also working very hard to win Piasau although the going is tough,” said a DAP leader who did not want to be named.

He also admitted that the crowd turnout at talks and ceramah over the last 10 days could not be taken seriously as “we cannot be sure that it would be translated into votes.”

He said the situation in Miri was somewhat different as there were fewer “political tourists”. He was referring to BN leaders and supporters who have converged on the state for the election.

“The absence of these political tourists had boosted our confidence. If we can win Piasau, it would be a huge victory for us,” DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke said.

The Foochow community, which forms the majority of the Chinese population in Miri, is said to be eager to “end” the SUPP chief’s political career after he had “offended” them recently.

“Even if he (Chan) wins, it will be with a few hundred-vote margin,” said a community leader in Miri.

Banking on Chinese votes

The DAP believes that urban Chinese votes would swing to the opposition in this polls, enabling them to capture between 10 and 12 seats.

“In the past, we used to get only 50% of the Chinese votes. Even if they voted for us, they will not tell. But now 60% of the Chinese voters are openly backing the opposition. This in itself says a lot of the community’s sentiment towards the BN government,” a DAP insider said.

“We expect to win at least three seats in the central region – Bukit Assek, Repok and Pelawan – and if we can maintain Meradong, it would be good. If we can win Bawang Assan and retain Meradong, it would be even better,” he said.

The DAP is banking on the Chinese vote swing to increase from 60% during the 2006 election to 80% in this polls.

“While getting this swing is achievable, we cannot say the same of the Iban voters.  Our survey shows that between 50% and 60% of Iban voters are still undecided.This is why we do not have high expectation on Iban voters,” a DAP leader said.

Political pundits also believe that voters in all the 13-Chinese dominated seats would vote for the DAP as the community wanted a balanced state assembly.

“The community might give DAP from six to eight or nine seats and give SUPP four seats. This will ensure a more balanced Chinese representation in the state assembly. Knowing the Chinese, they would not put all the eggs in one basket,” he said.

Safe bet BN

A think-tank commissioned to conduct surveys in the state for the election, predicts that the opposition would win from 15 to 20 seats, but qualifies this by saying that it also depends on how SUPP would “fight back”.

“We are looking at the maximum. The opposition can only trim BN’s majority slightly,” said a source attached to the group.

As for the 56 Dayak and Bumiputera-dominated seats located in the rural localities, it looks to be a safe bet for the BN, although one or two seats look vulnerable.

“The Iban definitely will not like to see their leaders like James Masing or William Mawan defeated. (Chief Minister) Taib  (Mahmud)  is still an asset in rural seats. The anti-BN sentiment is only in the predominantly Chinese urban seats,” a local leader said.

Masing believes that all these seats would come to the BN.

“For me, I’m confident… there is a very big possibility that Parti Rakyat Sarawak (a BN component) will deliver nine seats allocated to us. This includes the Belaga seat where we initially had problems with non-governmental organisations attacking us because of the Bakun dam,” he was reported as saying.

“We are also upbeat about Ngemah. We want to get the seat back after it was held by Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) chief Gabriel Adit Demong for the last four terms,” he added.

Opposition election machinery workers seem to have conceded defeat in rural areas, claiming that the lack of financial resources and manpower was the main reason for this.

“Moreover, when you talk about PKR, DAP or SNAP, people in these rural are are not enthusiastic. Besides, some of the opposition candidates are parachute candidates (outsiders). What we are doing now is to work harder in the urban areas as we have a  better chance there,” a DAP leader said.


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