Analyst: Sarawak election not a referendum on Abang Johari as CM, but to endorse GPS to maintain its mandate

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Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s Gedung candidate Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg arrives at the nomination centre at Dewan Masyarakat Gedung, Sarawak December 6, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s Gedung candidate Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg arrives at the nomination centre at Dewan Masyarakat Gedung, Sarawak December 6, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUCHING, Dec 17 — Political scientist Arnold Puyok today said that tomorrow’s state election is not a referendum on Chief Minister Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, despite what some people have been saying.

He said the state election is to formally endorse Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) to maintain the mandate to govern Sarawak in the next five years.

“Yes, I would think so,” he said during a live political discussion on “Sarawak state election: Will it rock the boat?” which was moderated by Syara Shukri of the Department of Political Science of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) today.

Asked to give his views on what will happen if Abang Johari does not win more seats than what former chief minister the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem had gotten in the 2016 state election, Puyok said Abang Johari and the leaders in Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) would have to think of different strategies in terms of how they want to appear in a single political block from Sarawak.

“But of course, they cannot afford to win without the two-thirds majority. Whatever it is, what is in their heads at the moment, is to win with the two-thirds majority.

“It doesn’t matter whether it is 70 or above 70 seats, as long as it is a comfortable majority for Abang Johari and PBB,” Puyok, who is a senior lecturer with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) said.

Puyok noted that people will have to look at the circumstances than when Adenan was the chief minister and the differences between the 2016 and 2021 state elections.

“I am sure as much as possible he wants to match Adenan or to win more seats than Adenan got previously.

“At that time, Adenan was extremely popular, not just among the Malays but also the Orang Ulus and even among the Chinese.

“He managed to swing the support back to the Barisan Nasional from the Opposition. The circumstances at the time were different compared to what it is now.

“I think now it is not about projecting Abang Johari, but about projecting GPS as a coalition. That is how I look at it,” he said.

In the 2016 state election, the then state Barisan Nasional under Adenan won 72 out of 82 seats of the state assembly.

Puyok said the main issue which is being highlighted in the state election is development.

“We are not talking about development as a big policy. If you are going to the ground, people are talking about tangible infrastructural development, like small roads from Pan Borneo Highway to their kampungs, electricity and clean water.

“They are not talking about big ideas of development.

“But now, I think the narrative is that the people want to see tangible benefits, more development which can help them to develop their social economy, develop their agricultural ventures and things like that,” he said.

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