Sarawak polls just around the corner?

By Stephen Winfred, Free Malaysia Today

KUCHING: The writings are on the wall that the 10th Sarawak state election is just around the corner, with predictions that it could be held as early as the last week of this month or in November.

Political pundits here also do not discount the possiblity that the state election may be held simultaneously with the Galas — a Kelantan state assembly seat — by-election after the Umno general assembly, to be held in Kuala Lumpur, from Oct 19 to 24.
The possibility of simultaneous elections arose after Election Commission chairman Abdul Aziz flew in to meet Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud late last week.

Sarawak has been in election mode the past one month and moved up a gear after Taib, who was previously speculated to vacate his position before the polls, confimed last week that he would lead the state Barisan Nasional (BN)  into the election.

Taib made this announcement to an unusually large crowd of over 7,000 people comprising state Cabinet ministers, BN supporters and members of non-governmental organisations at the Kuching International Airport after a short overseas trip.

A day later, he told reporters that he was likely to defend the Balingian state seat, which political analysts say to be another strong indication that the Land of the Hornbills was inching closer to the ballots.

These two announcements have sparked a flurry of speculation, with many saying that the announcements were the clearest indication yet from Taib that the election was close.

Sarawak BN secretary-general Stephen Rundi has also declared that the state BN election machinery was in “full gear” and the first wave of election roadshows was already underway.

“We are prepared anytime Pehin Seri (Taib) wants to call for election,” he was quoted as saying by dailies here.

Since returning from his overseas trip last week, Taib has been travelling throughout the state meeting the people at various events. This, party sources said, was part of the roadshow.

Tried and proven formula

On seat allocation, Rundi has also announced that the ruling coalition would stick to the tried and proven formula, with PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu), the backbone of the state BN, contesting 35 seats, SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party) 19, PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) nine and SDDP (Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party) eight.

Currently, the state BN commands 62 seats out of the 71-seat Sarawak state legislative assembly, while Pakatan Rakyat has eight seats, with another seat held by Ngemah constituency assemblyman Gabriel Adit.

In the opposition camp, DAP has a lion’s share of six urban, Chinese-majority seats, while PKR and Sarawak National Party (SNAP) have one each.

“Election is coming. October or November is a very likely date,” said Sarawak DAP chief Wong Ho Leng.