LUNDU: The stage may be set for a three-cornered fight in Tanjong Datu, but the by-election appears to be a contest in name only.
Riding a wave of sympathy and respect for the late chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Barisan Nasional is expected to retain the seat with a big majority.
Opposition candidates Rapelson Richard Hamit from PBDS Baru and Johnny Aput from State Reform Party Sarawak (STAR) are not likely to put up a serious challenge to Barisan’s Puan Sri Jamilah Anu, who is Adenan’s widow.
Judging by the size of the crowd at the nomination centre yesterday, both challengers face an uphill task as they only had a handful of supporters each compared to the hundreds who accompanied Jamilah.
“I’m sure Jamilah will win for a number of reasons,” political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said.
“Firstly, Tanjong Datu has proven to be a PBB and Barisan stronghold over many past elections, including the last one when Adenan won with a majority of nearly 6,000 votes.
“Also, this seat is quite rural and voters are more concerned about who can bring development to the area.”
Moreover, Dr Jeniri said the sympathy factor would boost votes for Jamilah.
“She has been with Adenan for many years. The people know her well and they want her to continue the legacy of the late chief minister.
“The sentiment on the ground will definitely help her.
“In an election of this nature, normally sympathy votes will favour the candidate (from the incumbent party).”
As for the Opposition candidates, Dr Jeniri said they did not stand a chance and were likely to lose their deposits too.
“They are from mosquito parties. They know they are not going to win, but to them, it doesn’t matter. This is an opportunity for them to portray themselves so that people know of their existence.
“Furthermore, the PBDS Baru candidate stood on an Amanah ticket in the last state election, so now people will question his credibility,” he observed.
In last May’s state election, Adenan won Tanjong Datu with a 5,892-vote majority over PKR’s Jazolkipli Numan, who only polled 468 votes and lost his deposit.
Although a victory for Barisan looks assured, Dr Jeniri said he would be observing the by-election closely for issues and trends.
“It will still be an election to watch.
“Barisan cannot take things for granted. They have to be seen as being committed to win the seat,” he said.
He added that a big victory was also important for new Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg to bolster his position and show his capability ahead of the next general election.
Political observer Datuk Peter Minos agreed that a victory in Tanjong Datu was important for Barisan in view of the coming general election.
“People will look at this by-election to see how popular Barisan is. It will be an indicator for the general election,” he said.
He also felt that the Opposition candidates had “no chance” of winning.
“This was Adenan’s seat and people remember him. There is a lot of sympathy for Jamilah,” he said.