KUCHING: Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s election debut as a coalition was a resounding success, both for the party and its leader, Abang Johari Openg.
It will certainly be a big morale booster for Abang Johari to have won more seats than the late Adenan Satem, former Barisan Nasional leader and chief minister, whose legacy still looms large over Sarawak.
Abang Johari has led GPS through some tough times since the 2018 general election which ended Barisan Nasional’s six decades in power. He has scored some big wins of his own, most notably on the state sales tax (SST) issue.
While analysts and observers will be dissecting the full results in the coming week, it must be noted that this was no ordinary state election.
On Saturday, only 60% of Sarawak’s 1.2 million voters had cast their vote. Restrictions on campaigning because of Covid-19 rules also made it more challenging for opposition candidates.
There was also a key demographic – voters aged 18 to 20 – that could not participate in this election because Undi18 has yet to come into force.
But perhaps the most important factor for many voters was simply a lack of a better alternative.
A total of nine opposition parties took part in this election, with only DAP, PKR, and Amanah joining forces. Even then, they could not put together a unified manifesto nor compete under a single banner.
It did not help PH’s cause that their 22 months in power was marked by broken promises.
Given the strong parochial sentiments in the state, no other party besides GPS can claim the mantle of being Sarawak’s champion, a key factor in a state election.
Against this background, it would be premature to assume that GPS, like BN in Melaka, are in the “good books” of the voters.
There was no good reason for voters to back other parties; for some who predicted a GPS win, there was perhaps no real reason to even come out and vote.
Both BN and GPS have said they cannot afford to rest on their laurels, and they would be wise to do so if they wish to win the support of the people at the next general election – a different ball game altogether.
After all, some 5.8 million new young voters will enter the fray once Undi18 comes into play and Covid-19 may no longer be a factor.
If the past three years have taught us anything, it is that Malaysian voters, particularly the young, have no qualms about change and are ready to teach political parties a lesson.
Today’s voters have much higher expectations of parties and politicians.
They want results, they want fairness, they want consistency and accountability. They don’t want business as usual. It’s no longer just about the flag nor the candidate.
So far, BN has taken the cue on demands for reforms, beginning with its pledge to introduce an anti-hopping law and to give equal allocations to all assemblymen in Melaka.
GPS has yet to commit itself to this.
The coalition may have won convincingly in the state elections, but if it decides against pursuing reforms, it may pay the price at GE15.