THE big surprise of the Sarawak polls is not that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) won 76 out of 82 seats.
The victory of the coalition – consisting of four Sarawak-based parties – was a given. It was just a matter of the exact number of the 70-plus predicted seats GPS would win.
The big surprise was the demolition of DAP. The party was already expected to fare worse than the 2016 Sarawak polls, where it won seven state seats. The shocker came when it won only two seats – Padungan and Pending.
“There was a Chinese tsunami against DAP in Sarawak. Who expected Bukit Assek (a DAP stronghold in Sibu town) to fall?” said Dr Jeniri Amir, a senior fellow of the Malaysian Council of Professors.
“I never expected Bukit Assek to fall. But I expected Kota Sentosa to fall. That was the main reason why Chong (Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen) ran away from the seat to go to Padungan.”
Jeniri also said DAP failed miserably in the Sarawak polls because the Chinese voters were upset with the way Pakatan Harapan governed the country in its 22 months in power after winning the 14th General Election in 2018.
“Apart from Pakatan and DAP’s failure to fulfil GE14 promises on 20% oil royalty and 50% tax to be given to Sarawak, people were angered by DAP cancelling many infrastructure projects like bridges.
“In the end, the Sarawak Chief Minister (Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg) had to build 10 bridges in Sarawak costing RM5.9bil using state money. This resonated well with the people,” he added.
Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya noted that DAP’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng during Pakatan’s time in government became a liability.
Pakatan, he added, did not keep its election promises.
“Many infrastructure projects were affected such as the cancellation of bridges in rural areas like Rimbungan, Igan and Batang Lupar. The Pan Borneo Highway budget cuts were also very disappointing to the people of Sarawak.
“These are the basic needs of the people in rural Sarawak,” he said.
Prof Awang Azman also believed that Lim’s statement when he was Finance Minister had come back to haunt DAP in the Sarawak polls.
“Guan Eng’s statement that Sarawak would go bankrupt within three years made Sarawak voters, including the Chinese, angry,” he said.
Jeniri also noted that DAP’s battle cry “Ubah” (Change) had become stale.
“They keep using the narrative of Ubah, which is no longer relevant. They have been using it for too long,” he said.
Jeniri observed that DAP also did badly because of the many opposition parties, such as Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), contesting in the election.
He said the multi-cornered fights resulted in opposition votes being split, which gave GPS an advantage.
“DAP should have worked with PSB so that there were no clashes. The results would probably have been different,” he said.
According to Jeniri, the low voter turnout in Chinese seats also contributed to DAP’s defeat. In Pending and Padungan where it won, the turnout was only 48.3% and 42.7% respectively.
“It was a protest by the Chinese. Some of them did not turn up to vote as they did not want to support GPS or DAP,” he said.
Prof Awang Azman contended that if the party did not improve its image, carry out internal reforms or think of cooperation with other parties, it would not perform well in GE15.
Jeniri concurred, saying that if the current overall sentiment of DAP continued, the party would continue to do as badly as it did in the Melaka and Sarawak polls.
Its poor performance in the two state elections is a clear sign that the Chinese and urban voters are fed up with the party.