Analysts: BN Will Lose Seats But Retain Two-Thirds Majority In Sarawak Election

(Bernama) – KUCHING — The Sarawak Barisan Nasional will win fewer seats in the state election that must be held before July 24, but will retain its two-thirds majority.

This is the consensus of political analysts here who also agree that BN would enhance its electoral position considerably if Chief Minister Taib Mahmud were to name a successor.

The analysts predict that BN, which holds 61 of the 71 seats in the state legislative assembly, will lose more urban constituencies.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak political scientist Dr Faisal S. Hazis said there are 12 marginal seats in the state which can go either way.

“Going by the trend in the 2008 general election of a five per cent swing to the opposition, we may expect them to hold on to all their 12 seats and win five more.

“That is not enough to deny Barisan a two-thirds majority,” he said.

Faisal said the 14 would comprise 10 Chinese-majority seats, three non-Muslim Bumiputra majority constituencies and one Muslim Bumiputra majority area.

He said the opposition would need a 20 per cent swing in votes to capture 36 seats for a simple majority.

Political analyst with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak Dr Jeniri Amir said the opposition cannot take away the two-thirds majority from BN even if components like SUPP, the United Peoples’ Party, lose more seats.

“PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu, the party which Taib heads and which is the backbone of the Sarawak BN) is too strong. Saribas and Ba Kelalan, which BN won with slim majorities, may tip over to the opposition if BN is not careful but this remains to be seen,” he said.

PBB won Saribas with a 94-vote majority while the BN candidate from SPDP, the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party, took Ba Kelalan with a majority of about 400 votes in the 2006 state election.

Jeniri expects SUPP to lose seats such as Pelawan and Dudong in Sibu and Repok in Sarikei, partly because of the party sticking to very long-serving old faces.

“No doubt, the opposition will increase their catch, but not to the extend of denying BN their two-thirds majority,” he said.

Jeniri cites four factors for an increase in the number of opposition seats, including better co-ordination and cooperation among the opposition front.

He said the other factors are “greater awareness among voters”, the state leadership issue and the March 2008 general election results “which have opened the eyes of some people.”

On paper, Jeniri said, at least 18 seats are considered critical, 10 black and 30 grey, but Taib has been making quite a number of concessions to the people.

The concessions include lifting Section 47 of the Land Code that was imposed on land in Bako more than 30 years ago.

Section 47 is a public notice reserving land for possible government use which prevents the owner from developing it.

Political Analyst at the Kuching campus of University College Sedaya International Ong Kian Ming said the DAP was likely to win 12 of the 15 Chinese majority seats.

But without significant Dayak or Iban support, it cannot affect BN’s grip on power, he said.

If the Sarawak BN failed to retain its two thirds majority, Ong said, it would risk losing as many as 10 of the 31 parliamentary constituencies in the state in the next general election.

“This will affect BN’s overall effort to retain Sabah and Sarawak as their fixed deposit,” Ong added.

The opposition now has only two parliamentary constituencies in Sarawak — Bandar Kuching and Sibu — both under the DAP.

Political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia said the Sarawak had to address several issues such as the state leadership succession to avoid losing more support, particularly from the Chinese community.

“They (the Chinese community) will consider one vote for SUPP as one vote for Taib,” he said, adding that they were likely to go for the opposition “more in protest.”

Sivamurugan expects people in the rural areas to continue supporting BN.

“BN will retain its two-thirds majority but the performance will not be as strong as in 2006,” he said. “Unless there is a clear and firm succession plan.”