THERE’S still over a year to go before the current term of the State Legislative Assembly expires but already speculations have started on when the next state elections will be held.
This seems to be a pet game among certain sections of the public whenever the time for an election draws near, conjecturing an early or later date based on anything from the prevailing scenario to political leaders’ favourite numbers, without any actual confirmation from the leaders in question.
And true to form, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, like other chief ministers and prime ministers, is keeping his cards close to his chest and not dropping any hints about when he might call the polls.
He was not above joking with the media, however, on the possible timing of the election.
Asked during a press conference on Wednesday about the upcoming assembly sitting being brought forward from May to April, he initially replied that it had nothing to do with him calling for the state election.
“There’s nothing particular about it. I know there’s speculation to say I asked for an early sitting because after that I want to call for election. Well, they can speculate what they want,” he said.
When the reporter asked for confirmation that it had nothing to do with the polls, Adenan said “Well”, paused and continued, deadpan, “maybe something to do with it.”
Everyone laughed but remained none the wiser.
Still, Adenan has revealed that his slogan for the coming polls will be “Give me a chance” in an interview with PBB newsletter Jiwa Bakti recently.
He expanded on this in a speech on Wednesday, asking people to support him so that he could carry out his plans of developing the rural areas and speaking up in the state’s interest.
“Look at peninsular Malaysia, you can drive from Johor Baru to Perlis on a smooth highway. But try driving from Sematan to Lawas, it will be a backbreaking journey. If you don’t fight for Sarawak, nobody else will. That’s why I need your support.
“If I have your support, those I negotiate with like Petronas and the Federal Government will say they’d better listen to Adenan because he represents all of Sarawak. That’s why I say give me a chance.”
He reiterated his commitment to rural development, saying that rural folk had been neglected for a long time, still lacked basic amenities and that the government should reciprocate them for their support over the years.
Interestingly, he also commented, ”I know you expect a good government. You deserve a good government.”
He’s right to point out that rural areas still lag behind urban areas and remain in need of roads, water and electricity.
Nevertheless, it’s disingenuous to suggest that development should be a reward or benefit stemming from political support, even more so considering that the same government has been in power since independence.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating that it is the government’s responsibility to provide development regardless of voting patterns.
As for the point on good government, it’s encouraging that the Chief Minister himself has taken note of this and seems committed to it.
However, a good government needs an effective opposition to provide checks and balances.
Political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir observed that while the opposition would find life difficult in the coming state election with Adenan at the helm, they still stood a chance in urban Chinese-majority seats where voters wanted to see some check and balance in government.
“Adenan doing good things is one thing, but I believe the Chinese still think that there should be some kind of check and balance, which is good for democracy,” he said.
For this reason, it’s important for the opposition to mount a credible campaign even if they are not likely to do well in the polls.
I think we can be pretty much certain that Barisan Nasional will remain in power after the polls, but the opposition should still make the effort to offer alternative policies and development plans for the state and to show that they can be an effective check and balance should they be elected.
Finally, as another political scientist Prof Dr Andrew Aeria said, speculating about the timing of the polls is a red herring and people should instead be asking what the key election issues will be.
It’s to be hoped that over the next year or so until the polls, our political debate will be about identifying and addressing issues rather than dates.
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