Just too quiet for comfort in Kuching and Sibu

BN and Dap flags seen along the streets during the campaign for the Sarawak election 2016.

The question being asked is whether the quiet Chinese ground is going to be bad for the opposition parties or for the ruling coalition.

THE Chinese ground is too quiet. That is what everyone, including the politicians themselves, are saying in Kuching and Sibu where the Chinese dominate.

The muted mood is making the Chinese seats hard to predict in an otherwise all-too-predictable election that has been afflicted with “Adenan Fever”.

There are about 15 of such seats. DAP is the incumbent in 12 of the seats.

DAP won almost 80% of the Chinese support in a number of these seats but the feedback is that there has been up to 10% erosion of support for the opposition.

“The mood is lukewarm. We are still not sure what this means, whether they will not come out to vote or if they will still vote for us,” said a DAP politician who has been monitoring the ground in Sibu.

The Chinese voters are not revealing much. Over on the peninsular side, it would be a case of political fatigue but the common refrain is that they have not decided which candidate or party to support.

They are also confused by the record number of multi-cornered fights and independent candidates.

According to a Kuching-based journalist, many middle-class Chinese have mixed and conflicting feelings.

They like what their Chief Minister has done. They approve of his policies and admire the way he stands up to the Federal Government.

Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s gestures towards Chinese schools and the community has gone down well with them.

At the same time, they are drawn to the check-and-balance role played by the opposition.

Moreover, DAP’s brand of Chinese politics appeals to their inner instincts. The Chinese here like to go on about being multi-racial in outlook but they are essentially very Chinese at heart.

The urban Chinese mood is a world apart from that in the 2011 state election.

Even the ceramah crowd is calmer and more subdued. The Star Online journalist Michelle Tam described Sibu as a “gentle town” and it was almost a week into the campaign.

A quiet ground is not a good thing and is always a matter of concern for politicians.

The question being asked is whether it spells trouble for DAP or Barisan Nasional.

According to former think-tank chief Khaw Veon Szu, a quiet ground often means that the voters have decided.

There is no need for them to seek more information or indulge in heated discussion about what they want, what they are angry about or how they intend to vote.

“The point to note is that the Chinese are not complaining about Adenan or his policies. I think you can read where all this is going, the signs are good for the state government,” said Khaw.

But there are still another nine days to go and the mood may shift when the billboards and the posters go up.

In the Sarikei area, the I-say-you and you-say-me tactics have begun. DAP is attacking the Barisan candidate for the Repok seat because he owns a black helicopter.

On the other hand, there is a scurrilous campaign about the personal life of the woman DAP candidate for the Meradong seat.

Billboards have been defaced and set on fire. The campaign will get more personal as the competition grows more intense.

The last few nights of heavy rain have not been conducive for the ceramah circuit. The first PKR ceramah in Batu Lintang where the incumbent See Chee How is very popular, drew only a few hundred people and ended shortly after 10pm.

See is not known for his oratory skills. The PKR politician comes from a poor family. His father was a taxi driver and local journalists say he is not like the DAP leaders who “open their mouths and only bad things come out”.

However, See is known for his “positive campaigning”. He cycled to the nomination centre on Monday and, yesterday, joined the local folk for chess at a coffeeshop known for its coffee and chess games.

Perhaps the most telling instance of just how difficult it has been for the opposition parties happened during an interview with independent candidate for Batu Kawah, Liu Thian Leong.

Liu, whose campaign is flush with funds, had nothing good to say about his opponents from Barisan and DAP.

When asked what he thought of Adenan, there was a long pause before he said: “His policies are well supported, he has the people in mind. In principle I support his policies but I don’t have to agree with everything,” he said.

That pretty much summed up the opposition dilemma and why the ground is too quiet for comfort.

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Politics , Sarawak , Batu Lintang , Joceline Tan


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