Sarawak state election: A guide to the contesting parties

·5-min read
Gabungan Parti Sarawak, led by current chief minister Datuk Seri Abang Johari Openg, looks set to contest in all 82 seats of the state assembly. — Bernama pic
Gabungan Parti Sarawak, led by current chief minister Datuk Seri Abang Johari Openg, looks set to contest in all 82 seats of the state assembly. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Sarawak is set to have its 12th state election on December 18 to elect new representatives for its state assembly, after this was delayed due to the Emergency declared over Covid-19.

All 82 seats of the state assembly will be up for grabs, with a total of 16 political parties expected to gear up their machinery in the upcoming state election.

On the ruling side, the biggest coalition is Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) led by incumbent chief minister Datuk Seri Abang Johari Openg, which has the most influence after previously winning 67 seats.

It has been reported that the coalition is keen on contesting in all 82 seats of the state assembly, dismissing its ally in the federal administration, Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) intention to take part in the state polls.

Abang Johari is also the president of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the single party with the most seats in the Sarawak state assembly, 47, mostly in rural parts of the state.

The party and others in GPS had been part of the Barisan Nasional coalition but were left to form their own local coalition after the 2018 general election.

Another component in GPS is Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) led by deputy president Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, who took control after Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing died of heart complications.

The late Masing had led the party for eight terms and held his seat in Baleh since 1983. The party’s other state seats currently include Balai Ringin, Bukit Begunan, Batang Ai, Ngemah, Pelagus, Belaga, Murum, Tamin, Samalaju and Kakus.

PRS Youth chief Datuk Snowdan Lawan also confirmed that no fresh faces will be fielded after all the incumbents, including Masing, were included in the list of candidates proposed to the GPS chairman.

Salang also said that there is no seat reserved for him unless GPS has something else planned

Another component party in the Sarawak government is the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) led by Sim Hui Kian, the state’s minister of local government and housing.

SUPP won seven seats out of 13 seats contested during the 2016 state election and said it intended to defend these seats by fielding the incumbents, according to the party’s secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting.

Also in the GPS is the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) led by Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, who is currently Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s special envoy to China and MP of Bintulu.

The party currently has three seats: Tasik Biru, Meluan and Marudi. It will defend all three.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, the anchor party of the PN coalition allied to GPS federally, has said it will sit out the election and purely assist its Sarawak partner.

PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said his party could participate to “test the waters” ahead of the 15th general election.

Opposition parties

On the other side of the aisle, leading the pack is Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) whose president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh is a former state finance minister. It has six seats in the state assembly.

A splinter party of the SUPP, it was previously called the United People’s Party (UPP) and started out as a pro-BN party but was rejected by the coalition.

It then declared itself to be independent after Wong resigned as the finance minister of Sarawak, before eventually deciding to sit in the Opposition and align itself with Pakatan Harapan (PH).

PH has said it will field candidates in all 82 seats of the state assembly with PKR contesting 47, DAP (26) and Amanah (nine).

The coalition is led by DAP state chairman Chong Chieng Jen, who insisted that the coalition will follow a previously agreed seat allocation despite recent disagreements between his party and its ally, PKR.

In 2016, PH parties won 10 of the 82 seats but this number had been halved before the assembly was dissolved.

DAP lost two seats after Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei resigned from the party, while the party’s Pujut assemblyman, Dr Ting Tiong Choon, was disqualified for his dual citizenship status.

Meanwhile, PKR that won three seats in 2016 lost all three to defections.

Amanah had contested in the previous state election but failed to win anything.

Independents and dark horses

Previously known as State Reform Party (STAR) before evolving into Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi) in January 24 last year, the party led by Lina Soo is expected to contest at least 20 seats including in Sibu, Miri and Bintulu, as well as four in Kuching.

Soo said that the party will work with Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB) in the Gabungan Anak Sarawak (Gasak) coalition to contest in all 82 seats and will name the latter party’s president, Bobby William, for the chief ministerial candidate.

Gasak is an alliance of state-based political groups such as Aspirasi and Sarawak Workers’ Party (SWP), leaders from deregistered PBDSB and leaders of Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S), as well as Sarawak Independence Alliance (SIA).

However, the Sarawak Workers’ Party has now rebranded into Parti Bangsa Malaysia led by former PKR MP, Larry Sng, and it is unclear if it will remain with Gasak for the election.

Soo has also been reported saying that her party will focus on urban and semi-urban areas, while the remaining parties from Gasak will be contesting in the rest of the state and will be focusing on Dayak centric.

For standalone party Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) under president Voon Lee Shan, it previously said that it would contest all 82 constituencies in the state assembly.

Voon has stressed that the party’s only mission is to seek independence for Sarawak by constitutional means under domestic and international laws.

The party has started to gain positive momentum and feedback from Sarawakians due to its pitch for the state’s autonomy.

Independent candidate and former Sarawak PKR Women’s chief Agnes Padan announced that she will be contesting in Ba’ Kelalan and will challenge the incumbent, which also includes former PKR member Baru Bian who will be contesting under PSB’s ticket.

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