Sarawak may be Anwar’s Achilles heel in bid for Putrajaya, say observers

Desmond Davidson

DAP is expected to again be the Pakatan Harapan star performer in Sarawak though pundits have forecasted the party could lose up to three seats. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 18, 2022.

ANWAR Ibrahim’s November 12 ‘Jelajah Sabah & Sarawak’ schedule is a tell-tale sign that all is not well for Pakatan Harapan in Sarawak.

Universiti Malaya political analyst Awang Azman Pawi said the PH chairman spent a few hours in the state capital before pushing off to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

“The schedule clearly showed Sarawak is low in Anwar’s priorities. His priorities are in Sabah,” he said on the PH chairman’s one fleeting stop in Kuching to the three he had in Sabah.

Anwar, who was accompanied by DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke, was in Kuching for only a couple of hours to reiterate PH’s election promises to Sarawak at a hotel nearest to the Kuching international airport to enable him to beat traffic in the rush back to the airport to catch his flight to Kota Kinabalu.

In Sabah, he addressed a ceramah in the Kalabakan, Putatan and Sepanggar parliamentary constituencies.

Awang said PH is expected to win more seats in Sabah than in Sarawak.

He  said the number of seats PH could win in Sabah “is not expected to be many, it’s still better than in Sarawak”.

PKR Sarawak is contesting 16 seats this general election.

In the last general election, PKR won four seats via then state chief Baru Bian in Selangau, Puncak Borneo (Willie Mongin), Saratok (Ali Biju) and Miri (Dr Michael Teo).

They lost three of the seats when Baru, Mongin and Ali were later sacked from the party over their role in the political shenanigans known as the Sheraton Move, defections and switching of allegiances, that led to the collapse of the PH government when it did not have the numbers to continue governing.

Only Dr Teo stood with PKR.

Now most analysts have said its unlikely PKR could repeat their GE14 exploits in these four seats this GE with Miri being the only seat with a realistic chance.

PKR’s election director for the Miri seat, Dominique Ng, has played down PKR’s chance of retaining this seat of 143,229 voters that Dr Teo held for two terms by describing it as “tough (to win)”.

“50:50. It’s definitely no walk in the park,” Ng, who had the distinction of being PKR’s first assemblyman, told The Malaysian Insight.

Dr Teo will not be defending the seat having opted to step down.

In his place, PH has opted for PKR Sarawak party Youth chief Chiew Choon Man.

Chiew will be in a three-way fight with Jeffery Phang of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS),and former Miri mayor Lawrence Lai of state-based Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).

The situation is bleak in Selangau if Joshua Jabeng, another of PKR’s election directors, is to be believed.

Jabeng, who said he harbours little hope of PKR retaining the seat, accused Baru of “damaging the seat” with his defection.

“If he had not defected, we could have built on our achievement,” Jabeng added.

A GPS campaign worker told The Malaysian Insight that Selangau is “as good as being in the bag”.

PKR's Joshua Jabeng says he harbours little hope of his party retaining the Selangau seat, and accuses Baru Bian for his defection during the 'Sheraton Move.' – Suara Keadilan website, November 18, 2022.

Selangau will be another three-way fight with PH fielding a political unknown Umpang Sabang of PKR, GPS putting up Edwin Banta and former magistrate Henry Joseph Usau making up the third contesting as an independent.

PH is not thought to fare any better in the other two seats, Saratok and Puncak Borneo.

Ali, who is now with Bersatu and contesting under the Perikatan Nasional banner, is banking on his appeal and close family ties to stave off the challenges of GPS’ Giendam Jonathan Tait and Ibil Jaya of PH to deliver what could be the first seat for PN in Sarawak.

Mongin, who prior to the election had his application to join Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the linchpin of the GPS coalition approved, is expected to retain his Bidayuh-majority seat of 79,969 on the outskirts of Kuching comfortably.

Mongin is facing the challenges of PH’s Diog Dios and Iana Akam of PSB.

Amanah, the smallest of the PH parties, is contesting in five seats, Kota Samarahan, Batang Sadong, Batang Lupar, Tanjong Manis and Igan, and they are not expected to threaten the GPS-PBB candidates in those seats.

DAP is expected to again be the PH star performer in Sarawak though pundits have forecasted the party could lose up to three seats, including Stampin which is being defended by its state chief Chong Chieng Jen.

In a three-way fight for the 121,009 votes here, Chong’s biggest threat comes from GPS’ Lo Khere Chiang.

Lo is the state assemblyman for Batu Kitang, one of three state seats that make up the federal constituency.

An aide to Chong said recently he is “facing a tough fight” to retain this seat he won in GE14.

After the early voting on Tuesday, Chong claimed Lo now has a 3,000 votes advantage through the army and police votes.

“Polling day has yet to come but Lo Khere Chiang has had a head start,” Chong said in what looks like one of Chong’s psychological tactics to win sympathy votes.

He said there are altogether 3,499 army and police voters in Stampin and out of that, 2,802 have cast their votes on Tuesday.

He added that 585 postal votes for the army and police have also been issued.

“Altogether, that makes up 3,387 votes of army and police, including their spouses, which constitutes a turnout rate as high as 96%.”

“Going by the past records of voting patterns, these army and police votes are more than 90% for GPS or the previous Barisan Nasional,” he said.

Chong said given such an “unfair advantage”, he appealed to all voters in Stampin to come out in numbers.

“We need more to come out to vote to counter the unfair advantage of the GPS in their 3,000 head start,” he said.

Pundits have forecasted that DAP would lose Mas Gading, its first Dayak seat, and Sarikei, with question marks over Lanang and Sibu.

GPS is expected to rebound from its GE14 disappointment where it won only 19 of the 31 seats contested.

The four-party coalition of PBB, the Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has been widely tipped to win “over 20” seats.
How many they actually could win is what the pundits are looking out for this Saturday. – November 18, 2022.

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