KUALA LUMPUR – Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) secretary-general Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi Utom is expected to meet Barisan Nasional (BN) top leadership on Nov 1 to present a report on the state’s preparation for the 13th general election.
He had said the report, which among other things, includes the state BN’s strategies, BN component parties’ candidates, as well as issues concerning urban areas, will be presented to Najib, who is also BN chairman.
Political analysts said even Dr Rundi, who is also Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) secretary-general, has stated that the PBB can achieve a 100 per cent victory, though such confidence cannot be applied to other component parties such as Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).
Currently, the four state BN component parties — PBB, SUPP, PRS and SPDP — are in control of 29 out of 31 parliamentary seats in the state. The remaining two seats, Bandar Kuching and Sibu, are held by the opposition DAP.
Only parliamentary seats will be contested in Sarawak in the general election, since the state election is held separately. The PBB has been allocated 14 parliamentary seats, SUPP has seven, PRS received six and SPDP has four.
“The weakest link is still SUPP. SUPP is still the old SUPP before the state election (April 16). They (BN) are not going to do better than in 2008,” said Dr Jeniri Amir, a political analyst at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS).
He said the urban seats, except Bintulu, are in danger of being captured by the opposition, particularly DAP.
“Seats such as Miri, Stampin, Sibu and Sarikei are in danger, along with two rural seats — Baram and Saratok. Almost all the factors that caused the losses in the last state election are still there. It only depends on how the opposition can capitalise on the issue,” added Dr Jeniri.
He said Baram is in danger due to the fact that in the last general election, the seat was won by the BN with a small majority, while in Saratok, the threat is coming from Krian assemblyman Ali Biju from the opposition PKR.
“If Ali Biju stands as a candidate for the parliamentary seat, he is likely to put up a good fight against the incumbent (Jelaing Mersat),” he said.
Jelaing is SPDP secretary-general and deputy Home Minister.
He said BN can still win, but it would not be as easy as in 2008, while there is also a need for the ruling coalition BN to identify candidates early and put up as many new faces as possible.
Another political analyst at UNIMAS, Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, also said that it was his opinion that the weakest link in the Sarawak ruling coalition is SUPP, which is likely to pull down the BN’s overall performance in the state.
SUPP is expected to contest in mostly urban seats, where the opposition DAP is also eyeing, such as Bandar Kuching, Stampin, Sibu, Lanang, Sarikei and Miri, where Chinese voters form a majority.
“SUPP already lost two out of the seven parliamentary seats allocated to them. In the next general election, I believe they are likely to lose one or two more seats.
There is no guarantee that SUPP can perform better, and even its president, Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, will step down in December,” he said.
Apart from that, he said internal problems in SPDP would likely affect the party performances if the matter is not handled carefully.
Dr Rundi, when contacted, admitted that BN would have a daunting task to ward off opposition challenges for the six urban parliamentary seats in Bandar Kuching, Stampin, Sarikei, Bandar Sibu, Lanang and Miri.
However, he played down the internal bickering in SPDP, saying it is just a misunderstanding among the SPDP top leadership and does not involve the grassroots, and he believed the SPDP president will resolve it by holding talks with the leadership.
“Other than that, we also do not foresee many problems. BN machinery is still in place after the state election, and as far as our preparations are concerned, we are ready to defend our seats, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas,” he said.
He also said BN would give the opposition a run for their money in urban areas in the parliamentary election, despite the near total-loss by SUPP against the opposition in the last state election where DAP and PKR captured 13 of 15 urban seats contested by SUPP.
Apart from that, Dr Rundi said during the general election the situation would be different, since one of the major factors explaining why DAP won 13 seats in the state election is that the party’s top candidates from the Peninsula were campaigning there.
“But this won’t happen during general elections, as they will be busy campaigning in their respective constituencies,” he added.
The other factor is that the opposition pact, Pakatan Rakyat, comprising PKR, DAP, and PAS, has yet to reach a consensus on the allocation of parliamentary seats that each of the parties will contest in Sarawak, despite two rounds of talks.
The problem mainly is due to the disagreement between DAP and PKR on the number of seats each of the parties wants to contest, as there are “overlapping” claims on some seats.
Both DAP and PKR are eyeing between 12 and 15 seats each, out of the 31, while PAS is expected to contest two or three seats in the predominantly Malay areas.