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Will Sarawak Chinese swing back to BN?

 | May 4, 2016

Adenan's popularity alone may not be enough, but there are indications of disillusionment with DAP.

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KUCHING: With just a few days to go before the Sarawak election, the opposition parties are finding themselves fighting against not only against Barisan Nasional’s immense resources, but also negative public perception caused primarily by their infighting.

The strongest opposition party is DAP, but even it appears to be losing its lustre among the Chinese, as indicated in interviews that FMT conducted in and around Kuching. They expressed fondness for the causes championed by DAP, but they concede that they feel let down by its apparent lack of confidence in its ability to win.

A man who identified himself only as Chiang said he voted for DAP in the last state election believing that it would be part of a new government after the 13th general election. He was disappointed of course, but he indicated that he had changed his mind about BN since Adenan Satem took over as Chief Minister.

“With BN’s loss of the Chinese vote in 2011, I believe Adenan realises the importance of our support and will hence continue pushing policies that are in our best interest,” he said.

The sentiment expressed by people like Chiang could be a cause for concern for Sarawak opposition parties, which seem to be facing an uphill task even in trying to retain the seats they already have.

Some Chinese voters appear to have been swayed by Adenan’s expression of his determination to have Chinese representatives in the state government.

A remark by a 29-year-old voter named Carol was typical. “We need a Chinese rep,” she said. “If all Chinese vote for the opposition, and SUPP ends up not winning any seat, then we won’t have any Chinese in the Cabinet to voice out our concerns.”

Tan, another voter, said: “I believe in the concept of checks and balances and I really like the passion some DAP candidates have displayed. But they themselves do not appear to be optimistic when it comes to their chances of winning.”

These comments lend some credence to predictions by pundits that there may be a swing of Chinese votes back to BN.

Political analyst Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said BN might even regain at least four of the seats it lost in 2011, but added that the swing would not be as big as Adenan would like.

“The real challenge for Adenan is getting back some of the Chinese seats,” he said. “There will be a swing, but not enough to see many seats going back to BN as Adenan’s popularity alone is not enough.

“On top of that, the Chinese are basically pragmatic and strategic voters. They still want some checks and balances or a watchdog in the state assembly.”


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