Analyst: Pakatan Harapan will be lucky to retain seats in Sarawak polls

Dr Oh Ei Sun

(MMO) – Analysts predict that Pakatan Harapan will fail to deny Barisan Nasional (BN) victory in two-thirds of seats in the Sarawak state election.

They cited the popularity of incumbent Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who has initiated several reforms like making English the state’s official language along with Bahasa Malaysia, as well as the failure of the federal opposition pact to resolve seat negotiations by the eve of nominations tomorrow.

“No denial of two-thirds in the first place. They will be lucky if they can retain current numbers,” Dr Oh Ei Sun (pic), senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told Malay Mail Online. 

“Adenan’s reform measures and autonomy calls are popular, his BN affiliation notwithstanding,” he added.

Sarawak PKR unveiled Friday a list of 35 candidates and said five more seats were still being negotiated with the DAP ― believed to be Bukit Semuja, Simanggang, Mambong, Mulu and Murum ― that the predominantly Chinese party had already said it would contest among its 30 seats.

There are 82 seats up for contest this May 7, 11 more than the previous 2011 Sarawak state election in which the opposition had only won 15 seats ― DAP 12 and PKR three ― and an Independent one.

University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute director Prof James Chin said Pakatan Harapan, a new pact formed last September comprising PKR, the DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), will fail in their mission to deny BN two-thirds majority in the legislative assembly, noting their inability to work together.

“My prediction is that they cannot deny BN the two-thirds majority. The maximum the opposition can win in Sarawak is about 14 to 22 seats,” Chin told Malay Mail Online.

Political analyst Dr Lim Teck Ghee said Pakatan Harapan’s inability to agree on seats and candidates is a “serious shortcoming”.

“The opposition parties as a whoIe have not pooled resources and worked closely together although they may be individual exceptions,” the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) director said.

“Also, the possibility of doing better than in the last election appears remote especially since Adenan has neutralised some of the issues arising from the Taib regime and federal government domination,” Lim added, referring to Adenan’s predecessor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The political analysts also did not believe that Pakatan Harapan’s infighting in the May 7 Sarawak election would lead to a break up of the federal opposition pact, with Chin noting that the national leadership would not allow it.

Lim said that “whatever happens in Sarawak will not lead to the breakup of Pakatan as it is one state out of 13”, while Oh noted that Malaysian politics were always “peninsular-centric” and that Sabah and Sarawak politics were only a side focus.