KUCHING, Dec 18 ― As Sarawakians head to the 1,866 polling centres all over the state today, the general consensus is that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will win even though there has been talk that the emergence of local and national opposition parties could steal the show in some contested seats.
For GPS, though, a win is not enough if they cannot secure at least two-thirds majority or 56 out of 82 seats.
This time around GPS candidates had to face 267 other candidates including opposition and candidates from their own national coalition such as PAS in at least one of the seats.
The coalition, led by Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB)’s Tan Sri Abang Johari Abang Openg who was the sixth chief minister of Sarawak, is set to contest under their own GPS white “Kenyalang” flag after contesting under Barisan Nasional’s (BN) “dacing” symbol at previous outings.
Other than PBB, the GPS parties are Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) of whom all left BN after the 2018 general election.
In the June 2016 state election under former chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, BN swept 72 of the 82 seats or almost 90 per cent of the seats, leaving only 10 to the Opposition.
This also marks the first state election that Abang Johari will lead.
Pakatan Harapan (PH) comes into this state election after a dismal performance in the Melaka state election last month.
This time DAP, PKR and Amanah are all using their own flags, manifestos and election machinery and even left 20 seats ― mostly in rural areas ― uncontested.
Only DAP is expected to retain their seven seats which they won in 2016 after a relatively quiet campaign period as face to face meetings and ceramahs have been banned.
PKR ― which won three seats in 2016 ― lost everything last year after the Sheraton Move which saw the party reduced to a shadow of its former self.
Instead of contesting 47 seats, the party only sent 28 candidates and had agreed not to contest against DAP in the same areas as what happened in 2016.
For local parties, the emergence of Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) is seen as a wild card especially in the semi-rural Dayak areas.
The party just announced they will appoint a Dayak leader as the chief minister if they win a significant number of seats. Their power base is in Sibu which is some 300 kilometres away from Kuching.
PSB is led by former state finance minister Datuk Seri Wong Sung Koh and will contest 70 seats. They had even recruited many experienced candidates especially from SUPP and its splinter ― the United People’s Party (UPP) ― before going independent in 2019 after Wong resigned from the Sarawak Cabinet.
PSB had boldly advertised itself as the replacement for GPS, promising to enhance Sarawak’s autonomy in getting back sea territorial rights, petroleum and gas rights as well as a fair share of parliamentary seats at the federal level.
They also campaigned about the fairness of Dayak seats, which in numbers are actually the biggest percentage in the state which made the party a formidable force, especially in rural and interior state constituencies.
Even former PH Sarawak CM designate and incumbent state assemblyman Baru Bian as well as See Chee How, who was sacked from PKR, had opted to join PSB, lending more credence to the young party’s stable of popular leaders.
Two other political parties, Parti Bumi Kenyalang led by former DAP man Voon Lee Shan and Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party led by Lina Soo, are seen as outsiders as their ideas of gaining independence were not openly accepted by the general public.
A total of 1.2 million Sarawakians are eligible to cast their ballots across the 82 state constituencies in order to choose their representatives at the state assembly.
Yesterday, the meteorology department had forecast a sunny morning and stormy evening for polling day.
The Election Commission (EC) said its 46,565-strong staff will be on duty to facilitate voting which will be from 7.30am to 5pm.
Voters are required to wear face masks, have their temperatures checked and use hand sanitiser which will be provided at all polling stations, as well as record their attendance and practise physical distancing.
Those who are persons under surveillance (PUS) and persons under investigation (PUI) and wish to vote will need to seek permission from the District Health Officer to go to the polling centres.