Monday 18 April 2011

Consequences of Sarawak State Elections

steadyaku47 comment: A good read - with thanks to Khoo Kay Peng.

Straight Talk

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Consequences of Sarawak State Elections

To keep it short and simple, ‎it is a bruising win for Barisan Nasional in Sarawak state elections. An unofficial report highlighted a major drop in Barisan Nasional's popular support from 63% in 2006 to just 55% in 2011.

A drop of 8% is significant enough to jolt the ruling coalition. Opposition has successfully doubled their seats tally to 16 although it is still a long way from the coveted 24 seats required to breach the 2/3 wall.

Some of the consequences for BN:

1) The Sarawak outcome has effectively cancelled out the gains PM Najib had enjoyed in the last couple by-elections. The fact that the coalition has performed worse than 2006 is going to put additional pressure on his leadership of UMNO and Barisan Nasional which has a history of pushing out leaders who perform poorly at the polls. Abdullah Badawi regime lost just 8 seats in the 2006 state elections.

2) General election which has been slated for mid-half of this year may be shelved temporarily until the coalition has digested the post-election analysis for Sarawak. According to UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin, the leadership transition promise in Sarawak must be fulfilled as soon as possible. The speed in which Taib installed himself as a Chief Minister of Sarawak is going to derail the promise.

Najib cannot afford to call a GE without solving the issue of leadership transition and a leader overstaying his presence. However, it is going to be very difficult to force down Taib. His party has just delivered a clean slate in the state elections.

Taib has a firm grip on PBB. Any attempt to replace him with an UMNO friendly CM is going to upset Taib's faction in PBB and trigger a civil war in PBB. It may even worsen the situation for BN in the 13th GE. I doubt Najib would take this risk. He would not risk losing between 5-8 parliamentary seats in Sarawak by calling for an immediate GE too by June/July. Hence, the stand-off is expected to continue until at least 2013.

3) The outcome may put both Gerakan and MCA in a very difficult position if the PM calls a GE this year. Both parties, like SUPP, have been talking about reform and change since their stunning defeats in the 2008 GE but did very little to convince anyone the parties have been reformed. How long more can UMNO carry the burden of winning elections to ensure that the BN coalition stays in power?

4) PM Najib is open to more internal attacks and sabotage. His 1Malaysia slogan appears to be less effective in Sarawak compared to West Malaysia. However, the outcome of Sarawak elections is going to change the dynamics here.

Sarawak is a good mid-term review for any political parties hoping to win big in the next GE.

Najib needs to recruit, use and retain good people if the he wants to reverse the momentum.

Pakatan parties are going to come charging at him. The complete annihilation of SNAP in the state elections is going to make parties in Sabah think twice about not choosing to cooperate with Pakatan. I am sure that there a lot of young candidates in Sabah hoping for similar breakthrough in the state elections. This situation will be replicated throughout Malaysia.

Politically, BN is facing a Japanese syndrome (aging syndrome). Youth, qualification and dynamism are the assets in politics. Not many youths are attracted to join the BN towkays parties. Towkays or tycoons are often not easily accessible. Urban voters are looking for representatives who can serve their interests, outspoken and hard workers.

Najib and the rest of BN component parties need to be able to reenergize their parties by recruiting young, credible, smart and energetic new members and candidates or risk suffering a worse defeat than 2008.

For Pakatan, it is obvious that Dap has provided a sturdy stewardship to their onslaught of Sarawak. It's influence and credibility is going skyrocket in Sarawak and places the party has a reasonable presence throughout Malaysia.

PKR needs to learn from the outcome too. They may have achieved an increase of 300% in their winning margin (from 1 to 3 seats) the party has failed to convince the Dayaks, Ibans and other indigenous groups to vote for them.

For example, a Dap candidate would have won Senadin comfortably but PKR lost the seat by a slim margin of 58. Two of PKR candidates See and Baru Bian are popular lawyer activists in their own rights. The party lost 46 out of 49 seats it had contested. This is hardly impressive.

The three parties, Dap, Pas and PKR, should have realised that any weak link in their partnership is not going to help them defeat BN if the parties do not work hard to address their internal issues and weaknesses.

PKR could temporarily seek some refuge by winning three seats but the party could hardly be counted on to deliver more rural and semi-rural seats if nothing is being done to address its internal issues.

The last thing I would like to see is racialization of the Sarawak elections. The political dichotomy in Sarawak is quite clear. It is Urban vs Rural political models rather than Chinese vs Non-Chinese. Urban voters who had contributed to Dap's stunning victories and huge margins are made up of also urban Dayaks, Ibans and the rest who gave the party its victories especially in seats such as Batu Kawah and Dudong.

One thing is sure in Sarawak after 416 - the political landscape has shifted. I have an advice to all parties - ignore it(the shift) at your own peril. The desire for a real change, an accountable government, anti-corruption, a fair deal and responsible governance to inspire positive socio-economic development are far more important than any personalities in Sarawak.

It is time for BN to focus on these issues rather than Anwar Ibrahim and his alleged scandals.

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