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Is Pakatan ready for battle?

 | June 2, 2012

Pakatan can win more seats in Sabah and Sarawak this time around but whether it will be enough to cause a political tsunami is another matter.

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In the ancient Chinese military classics, it has often been said that it is best to arrive early at the battlefield before the war starts.

Arriving early gives one’s army ample time to set up camp, survey the terrain and take a breather before the battle begins.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has the advantage in the polls as he is the one who dissolves Parliament.

Coupled with the dirty voter rolls, Pakatan Rakyat is certainly facing an uphill battle. Thus it is imperative that Pakatan gets everything ready before the polls are called.

And one of the things to be finalised is seat allocation and the list of candidates. So far, Peninsular Malaysia is more than 80% completed. But the major problem is in Sabah and Sarawak.

First of all, let us take a look at Sabah. Pakatan has no choice but to work with the local opposition parties in Sabah – Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and State Reform Party (STAR).

SAPP is headed by Yong Teck Lee and STAR by Jeffrey Kitingan. Why must Pakatan work with the locals? There are the two main reasons: no one knows the ground better than the locals, and the local people want autonomy.

To be honest, the Pakatan coalition in Sabah is disorganised and fragmented. There is still no clear-cut direction among the partners. Sabah Chief Minister and state Umno chief Musa Aman can sleep peacefully.

According to this columnist’s friend in Sabah, Pakatan can win seats in Sabah but how many is the question.

One of the problems in Sabah is that the state chiefs of the Pakatan component parties have a list of candidates which differs from the one at their head office in Kuala Lumpur and this has led to much disagreement and dispute.

Besides this conundrum, SAPP and STAR also have their respective candidates. So for one seat, there may be at least three candidates vying to contest. The only good thing is that the opposition has agreed that it must be a one-to-one fight against the Barisan Nasional.

No election fever in Sabah yet

A Pakatan-friendly NGO has started organising debates-cum-forums between the potential candidates who want to contest for a particular seat against BN.

These debates are open to the people of that locality for them to evaluate the candidates as well as to enable the potential candidates to present their party manifesto and what they can offer to the people.

There will also be a question-and-answer session wherein the public is given a chance to pose questions to the candidates.

At the end of the forum, a poll will be conducted among the audience to determine the winning candidate, be it from SAPP, STAR, PAS, PKR or DAP.

The winner of the polls will be announced immediately and it is he who will contest against BN. The other losing candidates must support the winner as he has been chosen by the people.

This is one way of ending the squabbles on who is to be the opposition candidate for a particular seat. Besides the above issue, election fever is still not evident in Sabah. There is hardly ever any ceramah except for the time when the party bigwigs from Kuala Lumpur pay a visit.

In Sarawak, too, the situation is slow. Pakatan is still sourcing for potential candidates.

There are some candidates wanting to contest, according to this columnist’s Sarawakian friend but they are not credible candidates.

Again, as in the case in Sabah, the Sarawakians dislike parties from the Peninsula and one reason why they kept voting for Chief Minister Taib Mahmud is because he has managed to keep Umno out. There is no Umno in Sarawak, nor MCA, MIC, or Gerakan.

But there is DAP! DAP is considered a local as it was established in Sarawak in the 1970s by the father of Chong Chieng Jen (the current DAP MP for Kuching). PKR and PAS are still considered as outsiders together with Umno and the other BN component parties.

Going by way of organisation, the opposition in Sarawak is also facing a tough situation. A constituency could be as large as Pahang and it is very costly to travel into the interiors which is sometimes possible only via helicopter.

A boat ride could take up to two or three days. Ditto for getting someone to drive you there. The services of a 4WD driver-cum-guide who is willing to take you into the interiors could cost you more than RM2,000 for a return trip.

It takes a vast amount of resources to contest in Sarawak. Therefore, some strategists in Pakatan suggested that it is best to focus only on winnable seats in order to maximise limited resources although there are some who are of the view that Pakatan should contest as many seats as possible.

According to this columnist’s friend who has stayed in Sabah for 34 years, the political culture in these two states is very different from Peninsular Malaysia and the people are slow to change and are set in their ways.

One thing for sure is that Pakatan can win more seats in Sabah and Sarawak this time around. But whether it will be enough to cause a political tsunami is another matter.

A very challenging battle is in store for Pakatan in these two states and one needs strength, stamina and wits to survive or to do well.

Selena Tay is a FMT columnist.


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