Malaysia's eastern state, Sarawak will hold its eleventh state elections on 7 May, with more than 1.1 million voters registered and expected to drop their votes next week
The Sarawak State Legislative Assembly was dissolved on Monday, 11 April leaving the election candidates and parties with a 12-day campaigning period. The nominations were held last Monday, 25 April.
The last Sarawak State Election that was held five years ago on 16 April 2011, saw the nation's longest ruling party, Barisan Nasional retaining their two-third majority in the 71 seat assembly.
Sarawak has been one of BN's strongest constituencies over the years, with its oil fields, hydroelectric dams and rainforests which brings in major parts of the country's profits.
This year's election will see the highest number of candidates from Barisan Nasional with 82 representatives, followed by 40 from PKR, 31 from DAP, 13 from Amanah, 11 from PAS and the State Reform Party (STAR) respectively, 5 from the Sarawak Native People's Party and 35 independent candidates
As for the total number of registered voters, the eleventh Sarawak state elections would have a total of 1,138,650 voters, with 131,881 people from the age group of 21-29.
While the opposition coalition is struggling to put up a gathered front, things take an interesting turn as DAP and PKR are running against each other in six different constituencies, namely, Batu Kitang, Mambong, Simanggang, Ngemeh, Murum and Mulu.
The main purpose of elections are to elect the right leaders that have the capability to govern a state or constituency and best provide for the people
In line with that, Malaysian opinion research firm, Merdeka Center has conducted an extensive survey on Sarawakian voters and their concerns on state issues
815 voters spread across all 31 parliament constituencies were selected for this survey that was conducted earlier this year.
Listed below are some of the major takeaways from the survey that offers a clearer picture of what Sarawakians think about the condition of their state:
1) Is Sarawak heading in the right direction?
When asked about what they think of the direction of the state based on current circumstances, 55% opined that Sarawak is "somewhat heading in the right direction", while 32% think that the state is "strongly heading towards the wrong direction".
Surprisingly, the respondents that think the state is heading in the right direction named development and infrastructure as the main reason behind it. As for the remaining 32%, they cited negative economic concerns as the reason instead.
2) The top four most pressing issues that need to be addressed by the state government immediately:
- The voters are concerned with the recent price hikes, increasing cost of living, abandoned rural areas, lack of affordable housing, and poverty problems in the state.
Development and infrastructure:
- Voted as the second most worrying issue in Sarawak, the respondents mentioned the poor condition of roads, drainage, inefficiency of public transportation, exploitation of forests (illegal logging), dilapidated schools and infrastructure.
Administration- state government management:
- Issues like poor governance, fair treatment to non-bumiputeras, leadership issues, transparency and corruption among government servants and politicians were raised by the voters.
Social issues and public safety:
- Crime and public safety, social ills among youths, influx of illegal immigrants on job opportunities, rallies and demonstrations were also mentioned.
The survey was concluded with a number of information including how the Sarawakian respondents think that they are not being fairly treated by Putrajaya
With that said, it is common knowledge that elections come with a set of idealistic manifestos laid down by all parties running for elections
The public declaration is often very visionary and aims to solve all the problems a constituency has been facing.
For the 11th Sarawak State elections, the three main competing parties have come up with their very own manifestos, namely:
Under their campaign, 'Give TeamAdenan A Chance', BN has pinned down a set of 15 promises:
Barisan's direct competitor, opposition coalition's DAP, on the other hand, has a 10 promise plan with a campaign that focuses on policy reforms for "real change":
Here's the list of DAP's pledges:
1) Free public bus service
2) Equitable sharing of forest resources
3) Sharing of land by all
4) Job creation
5) Enhance Internet coverage
6) Improve security
7) Transparency in governance
8) Multi-racial civil service
9) Autonomy in taxation
10) Education autonomy
Wanting to win their first ever seat in Sarawak, PAS's election manifesto is a more generalised one which includes the promise of fighting for oil and gas royalty
Here's a complete list of PAS Sarawak's Tawaran Sejatera Untukmu Manifesto:
1) Safeguard the rights of Sarawakians
2) Safeguard the rights of Sarawak's diverse races, cultures and religion
3) Fight for 20% oil and gas royalty
4) Ensure basic infrastructure for the whole of Sarawak
5) Listen to the people's plights
With the election just two days away, predictions and analysis have been pouring in from local political analysts and the masses
One such analysis came from University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute director James Chin who thinks that Sarawak BN's chief and chief minister Adenan Satem is on the right track to winning this year's elections.
"I'm very confident that Adenan will win by at least a two-thirds majority.The reason is rather simple, as you know and the readers, too, they have added 11 new seats the Sarawak election this time," said James, as quoted by Malaysiakini.
While many have criticised Adenan's move to ban the entry of prominent opposition figures from Sarawak, James thinks that it has worked to his advantage
"First, obviously, is the move of 'hijacking' the 'Sarawak for Sarawakians' movement. By saying that, you know, if you vote for Adenan, only he will restore all the rights Sarawak lost in the Malaysia Agreement 1963
The move to ban opposition political figures from entering Sarawak has successfully turned the major 1MDB issue, which has been the key propaganda by the Pakatan Harapan, to become a non-issue in the state.
"The third thing he did was to get rid of the entire BN theme, by declaring that there are no more parties in Sarawak BN, but it is all about Team Adenan," he added.
Aside from James' prediction, a report by Channel News Asia revealed that Sarawakians at grass-roots level are also rooting for Adenan thanks to his strong policies to protect the rural community
"Adenan is actually all right as a chief minister but all his friends are no good," explained a sundry shop owner in Kuching.
He has won hearts through moves like accelerating development in the mostly-rural state, abolishing all tolls, and slamming the use of the term "immigrants" to describe ethnic Chinese who have been in Sarawak for generations.
"I am informed that I am quite popular personally, my ratings are quite high, somewhere in 81 or 82 per cent but my problem is how to convert that popularity into votes," Mr Adenan said at a press conference last week. "I cannot very well stand in all 82 seats… If you want me to continue as chief minister, you have to put in my team.
Sarawak is crucial to keeping BN in federal power, holding 31 (or almost 14 per cent) of 222 federal seats and this election is being viewed as a gauge of the level of support BN can expect to get from the state the next general election, due by 2018.
Based on those predictions, Adenan's popularity in Sarawak could be attributed to these eight reasons:
As for opposition's DAP, they have been banking on realistic changes that include free bus services and eradication of poverty to win the hearts of people
Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen said he wants Sarawak to be free from poverty, noting that the resource-rich state rakes in an annual revenue of up to RM6 billion and has a reported RM27 billion in reserves.
"We are being very specific and looking at all issues concerning everyone from the state,” he said after unveiling the manifesto at party’s operation room.
The party also pledged to offer free public bus service throughout all major cities such as Kuching, Miri, Bintulu and Sibu, with an expected budget of RM500 million to fund the project in its first year.
"This would see everyone in the state saving about RM300 to RM400 per month on petrol, car wear and tear and other transportation expenses besides reducing traffic jam.
"For the younger generation who just started a job, they should see more savings as they would not need to buy a car, which would see them save about RM700 to RM800 a month," he said.
DAP has also been working on its Impian Sarawak pet project which has successfully built roads, brought water and electricity to rural villages:
However, these rural Sarawakians that are disappointed with the lack of progress in their villages have turned into anti-BN activists: