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Published: Saturday April 6, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday April 26, 2013 MYT 1:06:32 AM

Where else but in Sarawak

A DAY after Parliament was dissolved, I SMSed a senior politician asking him when he thought the Prime Minister will announce Barisan Nasional’s list of candidates.

“He will announce the candidates one week before nomination. Look out for EC dates.”

Another round of guessing games I thought and so with mild exasperation I messaged: “I hope this election would be over soon. Malaysians suffering from polls fatigue.”

“Malaysians and POLITICIANS. Both! We are both running out of energy and resources,” came the reply.

Yes, it has been a long and tiring wait for all for the polls, more so for us in Sarawak.

For many of my colleagues and I, it is as though 2012 never existed and we have been in suspense since the April 2011 state election because of all the speculation about an early general election.

Holidays were cancelled, study leave shelved, relationships were put on the back burner — life basically came to a standstill.

So, it was with much relief when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak finally announced the dissolution of Parliament on Wednesday.

Now, our fingers are crossed that it would all be over within this month. No further delay please!

I hope that after the Election Commission (EC) concludes its meeting next Wednesday to decide on the all-important dates, I would not be eating my shoes.

My bet has been that nomination would be some time in the middle of this month and polling on either Saturday, April 27, or the following day with about 10 days or less of campaigning.

It is unlikely that the campaign period will be very long since all the political parties have basically been “campaigning” already over the last one year or so.

Take Barisan Nasional, for instance. How many more rounds of BR1M distribution can there possibly be?

Moreover, it’s probably better for the country to get things over with quickly given the Sulu intrusion of Sabah.

The situation in the state seems to be back to normal but who knows what could happen with all the political fervour and movement of people on the ground in too long a campaign period.

So I’m praying that all would be decided by the end of the month and of course, that there would be no unwanted incidents along the way.

We all need a break because in the next two or three years, we have another election to deal with.

Yes, the next state election is due by the middle of 2016 and we are now almost at the midway point of the current term of the state legislative assembly.

Indeed, Sarawakians probably see more elections in their lifetime than any other Malaysian, but is it really all that necessary?

Fact is the state and parliamentary elections were held simultaneously twice in 1969 and 1974. It was only in the third general election for the state that the two polls were held separately.

According to past records, the polls were delayed for a year from 1978 because the then chief minister Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’akub had problems with seat distribution between Sarawak Barisan Nasional parties.

However, the 1979 term was dissolved 18 months before the end of the term for the fourth state election after Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud took over as Chief Minister.

The state assembly was dissolved on Nov 18, 1983, with nomination held on Dec 8 and polling on Dec 28 and 29.

The following polls were was also a snap one.

The state assembly was dissolved on March 13, 1987, after a group of assemblymen led by Rahman, Taib’s uncle, rebelled against Taib in the infamous ‘Ming Court Affair’.

Since then, the state polls have been held every two or three years after the parliamentary elections. Whoever said Sarawak politics was dull?

But the real question is would it not be better for the state and parliamentary polls to be held together?

From the logistics point of view, it seems to make sense. Sarawak — with 31 parliamentary constituencies and 71 state seats — is without a doubt the most challenging state for the EC to conduct polls in.

With the state almost the size of the peninsula, rough terrain and with voters scattered all over, the commission needs to use every mode of transport conceivable to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to perform their democratic rights and transportation certainly makes up the bulk of the commission’s spending.

For the coming general election alone, EC has enlisted 777 boats, 53 speedboats, 5.600 cars or four-wheel drive vehicles, 27 helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft.

So what is EC’s total budget for Sarawak? RM78mil, the most compared to other states.

That’s a huge sum only for the parliamentary polls. For the 2011 state election, the EC had set aside about RM50mil.

So the commission is spending a whopping RM128mil for the two polls. Obviously, the EC could make huge savings if the state and parliamentary polls are held together.

However, having the polls separately has its advantages, particularly for the state Barisan.

With no parliamentary polls to worry about, the Federal Barisan leaders can devote their time, energy and resources towards helping the state Barisan and this, some believe, is one of the reasons why Sarawak has remained the stronghold of the coalition, until recently that is.

Since the 2006 state polls, there seems to be growing interest among young working adults in politics. This can clearly be seen on Facebook or the Internet in general as well as from activities on the ground.

Their conversations about politics too appear to have matured, going beyond trivial issues to things like the economy and sustainable growth.

Now that’s not bad but it feels like there’s just too much politicking these days and the downside of that is that it becomes a distraction and to some extreme, it has created ill-feelings between people of different political convictions.

A polls every two or three years could only serve to aggravate that.

Now, I might be wrong but that is my assessment of the political atmosphere today.

Personally, I hope that the state and parliamentary elections would be held together one day because there is more to life than politics.

Tags / Keywords: Community, News, Opinion, Second wind, Raynore Mering, Taib Mahmud, election, polls

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