Surprise! Simultaneous polls

By JK Jayan (FMT)

As the country gears up for the Sarawak state election, speculation is rife that the 13th general election is around the corner as well. There is a possibility that both elections will be held simultaneously.

It will be a master strategy for the Barisan Nasional leadership to have both elections at the same time as it will prevent Peninsular-based Pakatan Rakyat leaders from campaigning in Sarawak.

Pakatan leaders, who are keen on capturing Sarawak to provide a boost to their pursuit of Putrajaya, will be restrained to their respective constituencies.

Given Sarawak’s landscape and the short campaign period usually allocated for general elections, no Pakatan leader from the peninsula will dare waste precious time in Sarawak.

The Sibu by-election has taught some bitter lessons to the BN leadership. It revealed what will happen if key Pakatan leaders are allowed to campaign in Sarawak.

Catch-22 for BN

In Sarawak, BN is now faced with the formidable task of deciding whether to allow current Chief Minister Taib Mahmud to lead the election battle or to find a replacement.

Sources familiar with Sarawak politics say that while Pakatan is heading into Sarawak with some confidence, BN is in a “Catch-22” situation, saddled with problems and issues associated with Taib.

If BN retains Taib as chief minister, then they will be facing a barrage of questions and criticisms from the opposition regarding the corruption allegations against him.

On the other hand, if BN drops Taib, they will be losing one of the most experienced and seasoned leaders in the history of Sarawak politics.

BN will also be faced with the arduous task of naming a capable leader to lead the BN charge in Sarawak. The coalition will be torn between naming a Melanau Malay or a Dayak as the next chief minister and Sarawak BN leader.

BN will be able to turn the tables against Pakatan by dropping Taib and replacing him with a Dayak leader.

With just that one master stroke, BN will be able to drastically change the current political situation in Sarawak by soothing the feelings of the Dayak community and knocking out a key political strategy mooted by the Pakatan leadership — to name a Dayak leader as chief minister in the event they win the state election.

Three factors favouring Pakatan

Three key factors seem to be favouring Pakatan in Sarawak. The first is their promise that the state will have a Dayak chief minister in the event Pakatan forms the next state government.

This may drive the Dayak community, which forms almost half of Sarawak’s population, to support the Pakatan candidates.

The second factor is the promise by Pakatan to increase the oil royalty to Sarawak by a hefty

20% through which more development projects can be initiated. Neutral voters in Sarawak may be swayed by this.

The third factor is the backing of the Chinese community through DAP. The Chinese form 26% of the population in the state and their support can be the deciding factor in many constituencies.

Put together, these three factors can tilt BN’s fortunes in Sarawak even though the coalition is mightier in terms of election machinery and financial strength.If the Sarawak state election is held separately and if BN loses, it will have a profound effect on the parliamentary elections.

With the state administration under their control, the Pakatan leadership will be able to concentrate on the parliamentary seats in Sarawak and if they can win at least half of the 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak, then the prospect of BN forming the next federal government will be doomed.

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