KUCHING: The state assembly has been dissolved to pave way for the ninth election, and Sarawakians will go to the polls on May 20.
Nomination day is May 9, allowing for an 11-day campaign period.
Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman announced the dates yesterday, barely three hours after Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud dissolved the assembly six months ahead of the expiry of its five-year mandate, which ends on Nov 18.
It is believed that this is the first time the assembly’s dissolution and fixing of nomination and polling days have come on the same day.
Taib, also state Barisan Nasional chairman, said Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abang Muhammed Salahuddin gave his consent to dissolve the assembly during an audience at the Astana last Sunday afternoon.
Based on the latest electoral roll gazetted last month, Sarawak has 892,537 voters, including 14,727 postal voters.
Seventy-one seats, including nine new seats, are at stake.
Created during the recent redelination exercise, the new seats are Opar, Kota Sentosa, Linga, Balai Ringin, Bukit Saban, Daro, Bekenu, Pujut and Batu Danau.
The state's four-member Barisan coalition – which held 61 of the 62 seats in the assembly before yesterday’s dissolution – comprises Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).
They have agreed to a 5-2-1-1 formula in the allocation of the new seats.
PBB, led by Taib, gets five new seats and will field 35 candidates.
The SUPP, given two additional seats, is contesting in 19 constituencies while PRS and the SPDP, each with one new seat, will nominate nine and eight candidates, respectively.
Taib said he was fine-tuning the coalition’s list of candidates before submitting it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for approval.
“I am aiming for 20% of the (Barisan) candidates to be new faces,” he told reporters at the Hornbill Skyways hangar here before flying to Sibu to open the privatised Lanang Bridge across the Rejang River.