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The Sarawak Elections: Why the outcome?

Updated On: May 23, 2006

The world of Malaysian politics is a murky one, often laden with internal maneuverings and changing alliances.

But even with this in mind, the Sarawak elections outcome came as a shock. Although the Barisan National (BN) swept 62 of the 71 seats, opposition parties spoilt the fun for the ruling party by making significant inroads into the parliament, grabbing nine seats and consequently putting on its best show since 1987. The opposition had won only two seats in the last election.

The biggest gains were attributed to the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP), which won six of the nine opposition seats, buoyed by support from urban Chinese voters in Chinese-majority constituencies in Kuching and Sibu.  Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the Sarawak National Party (Snap) and an independent candidate each took one seat.

To add salt to the wounds, the opposition parties also greatly reduced the majorities in many BN constituencies. DAP’s main BN casualties were candidates from the BN’s partner Sarawak United People's Party (Supp). The Chinese-based Supp lost in eight of the 19 seats it contested, including its heavyweights - incumbents Assistant Minister of Culture and Urbanisation Sim Kheng Hui and Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister's Office Alfred Yap.

Supp president and Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri George Chan, apologised on late Saturday for his party's poor showing, which he described as the 'worst-ever and most disastrous electoral defeat'. He admitted that the component party of the state Barisan Nasional (BN) had lost touch with some of the issues affecting the people and would take the necessary action to make a stronger comeback.

The outcome of the Sarawak elections came at a bad time for PM Abdullah Badawi.  Of late, he has been facing increasing criticisms from his former boss, Dr Mahathir, that on 19 May, PM Badawi had to openly defended his leadership of UMNO telling party veterans that “they should not be taken by this apparent listlessness in decision-making”.  Abdullah Badawi speaking at the launch of the UMNO Veterans’ Club reminded the members of his loyalty to the party and urged them to be patient as he sought to “carry out what was handed down to him by its past leaders”.

Hearing about the election results while in Egypt for the World Economic Forum, PM Badawi also promised that “BN will carry out a post-mortem to find out why it did not fare as well in the urban areas”. 

Sources:

Opposition makes shock gains in state polls (Straits Times, 22 May 2006)

National Front retains power in Malaysia's Sarawak state (Straits Times, 21 May 2006)

Message From Voters Loud And Clear, Says SUPP Chief (Bernama, 21 May 2006)

Sarawak Defeats A Lesson For BN Not To Be Complacent (Bernama, 21 May 2006)