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Friday April 19, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday April 26, 2013 MYT 12:16:51 AM
by nigel edgar
KUCHING: The ultimate underdogs in an election — whether parliamentary or state — are the independent candidates, also known as “irritants”, “fly-by-night politicians”, “spoilers” and “opportunists” to name but a few unsavoury labels.
With limited resources, some of them set off for battle with nothing more than their political convictions. And then, there are those whose intentions might not be so clear and are allegedly planted by certain quarters (such as established parties) to split the votes in their favour.
Whatever their purpose, independent candidates have become part of the political landscape during each election and they add to the excitement when against all odds — like David versus Goliath — they win.
Since the first parliamentary polls in 1969, a total of 173 independent candidates have entered the fray, and only 10 have won in parliamentary elections in Sarawak to date.
Joseph Unting Umang was the first independent candidate to win in Sarawak and he did it in a seven-cornered fight in Kanowit in the state’s first parliamentary elections in 1969. A total of 23 independent candidates were contesting in that year’s parliamentary polls.
Garnering 2,030 votes, Unting won with a slim margin of 488 votes over his closest rival SUPP’s Chua Kai Siong.
After Unting, however, independent candidates had to wait until 1982 for a breakthrough. In the 1982 elections three independent candidates won, followed by two in 1986 and four in 1990.
There has not been any successful independent candidate in any parliamentary election in Sarawak since 1990. The year 1986 also saw the biggest number of them in the fray at 28.
In the 2004 elections, there were 10 independent candidates while in 2008 there were 11. Some of the names of the successful independent candidates were Patrick Uren, Edwin Tangkon and Edmund Langgu in 1982, Linus Andrew Luwak and Nicholas Munong Ibau in 1986, and Richard Riot, Joseph Mauh, Billy Abit Joo and Harrison Ngau Laing in 1990.
Riot and Abit eventually joined SUPP and PBDS respectively and continued to defend their seats. After PBDS was de-registered in 2004, Abit defended the seat under the PRS flag.
The 2004 and 2008 parliamentary elections in Lubok Antu saw an unexpected twist.
In 2004, independent candidate William Nyalau Badak contested against Jawah Gerang (BN). Jawah won with a 6,962 majority.
However, following PBDS’ deregistration that year, Jawah remained partyless until he joined PKR and did not seek re-election in 2008.
That year, Nyalau joined PRS and won with 6,769 majority against independent candidate Nicholas Bawin Anggat in a straight fight.
One former independent candidate who is now an elected representative representing a party said the number of independent candidates was closely related to the political situation of the day such as party infighting.
One such example was the G5 - a group of five elected representatives who were sacked from SPDP for insubordination.
One of them is Mas Gading incumbent Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe who is rumoured to defend his seat as an Independent.
Another rumour is that former Bukit Begunan assemblyman Donald Lawan might contest in Sri Aman as an Independent against incumbent Masir Kujat from PRS.
Although the election deposit has been increased from RM5,000 to RM10,000 from the 1999 parliamentary elections onwards, money is not so much an issue. Many of these candidates were people with money, said a former Independent. Of course a candidate will lose his election deposit if he/she fails to garner more than 12.5% of the total votes cast.
He did not deny that the strategy of planting independent candidates to split votes in difficult constituencies could be making a comeback nowadays as the political scenarios in the country is beginning to show some color.
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