Multi-cornered fights in all 82 seats

Setting the stage: Workers hoisting GPS party flags in preparation for the 12th Sarawak state elections in Sibu. — Bernama

KUCHING: Multi-cornered fights are almost certain in all 82 seats when nominations open for the 12th Sarawak state election.The ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition, which is contesting in all seats, will be challenged by Pakatan Harapan, Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and smaller local opposition parties.

GPS backbone party Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) will contest 47 seats, while its partners Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) will field candidates in 18 seats, Parti Rakyat Sarawak in 11 seats, and the Progressive Demo-cratic Party in six seats.

Judging from the 2016 state polls, independent candidates are also expected to join the fray.

University of Tasmania Asian Studies Prof James Chin predicted that many seats will see five- or six-cornered fights.

“It is very unusual. Although everyone is quite clear that GPS has all the advantage, every Tom, Dick and Harry in Sarawak wants to try their luck.

“For many of the smaller parties, the overwhelming majority of their candidates will lose their deposits,” he said.

The smaller parties include Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi), Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDS Baru) and Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK).

In 2016, there were straight fights in 36 seats and multi-cornered fights in 44 seats, with the most being five-way fights in five seats.

Despite the crowded field, National Professors Council senior fellow Dr Jeniri Amir believes that GPS is likely to win with a two-thirds majority.

“The real fight will be with DAP in urban areas and PSB in a few other seats. The other parties do not have much machinery on the ground,” he said.

Based on previous election results, Jeniri does not expect the independent candidates to win any seats.When GPS parties contested as Sarawak Barisan Nasional in 2016, the coalition won two seats – Bukit Kota and Bukit Sari – uncontested on nomination day.

(The Pakatan candidate for Bukit Sari did not turn up at the nomination centre while none of the opposition parties fielded a candidate for Bukit Kota.)

However, Prof Chin and Jeniri believe that every seat will be contested this time.

“An uncontested win for GPS is only likely if the nomination papers are rejected by the Election Commission,” Prof Chin said.

This election will not see DAP and PKR clashing in any seats, unlike in the last state polls where the two parties faced each other in six seats.

PKR will contest in 28 seats and DAP will take 26 seats. Pakatan’s other partner, Amanah, has said that it will contest in nine seats.

Pakatan, however, was unable to secure an electoral pact with PSB, the other main opposition contender, which is expected to contest in about 70 seats.

PSB was formerly GPS-friendly but became an independent opposition party in 2019.

The smaller opposition parties are also going it alone despite initial plans by Aspirasi and PBDS Baru to work together.

Yesterday, PBDS Baru said they would not be joining forces with Aspirasi in this election as they had not made a formal agreement to do so.

PAS will be contesting in just one seat, Beting Maro; this is a drastic drop compared with the 11 seats they contested during the last polls. Deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said this was in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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