KUCHING – Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem is riding high. Praises are pouring in from government supporters and people in the opposition acknowledging the excellence of his leadership.
In terms of strategy, this is the most opportune moment to call the 11th Sarawak state election. Adenan himself has reportedly said that it will be held any time after the 2016 state budget is tabled in November.
He reportedly expects the redelineation of electoral boundaries, providing for 11 additional seats in the state legislative assembly, to be approved by Parliament when it convenes in October.
That means October can be ruled out as the month when the election will be held. However, the date for the tabling of the state budget in November has yet to be set.
And, the chief minister will surely want to find out, at least for political capital, what the federal government is allocating to Sarawak in the 2016 National Budget that will be tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Oct 23.
Many politicians, including opposition leaders, and analysts do not think the state election will be held this year.
Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian feels November is too soon for Adenan to make the preparations for an election this year because he would be busy with the Sarawak budget that he would only shape after finding out what’s in store in the national budget.
He said many demands of the state government are awaiting response from the federal government and, while these demands may shore up support for Adenan, the people are also waiting to see what the state can expect from the national budget.
Money may not be the priority but, in terms of a morale booster, the people may want to see the outcome of Adenan’s demands on issues such as raising oil royalty from five per cent to 20 and the devolution of power in sectors such as education, infrastructure and tourism, he said.
Baru Bian said the undivided support for Adenan may be more personal in nature.
He also said that a solution had yet to be found to the split within the Barisan Nasional component parties, and this will surely take time.
He referred to the split within the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), which has spawned the United People’s Party (UPP) and Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras) that are “BN-friendly”.
In the Sarawak state assembly, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) has 35 seats; SUPP, six; Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), eight; SPDP, six; DAP, 12; PKR, three and independent, one, making a total of 71 seats.
Chinese support is a crucial issue in Sarawak. The last election saw SUPP become the biggest loser when it retained only half of its 12 seats, while the DAP doubled the number of its seats to 12.
A politician supportive of the government who wished to remain anonymous said he did not rule out the earnestness of Adenan in enticing the Chinese community.
He cited the example of Adenan’s announcement of aid for Chinese private schools, amounting to RM3 million for last year and RM4 million for this year and a pledge of RM5 million for next year.
Baru Bian said the split in the component parties which usually arises from disputes over the allocation of seats cannot be resolved by giving aid to constituents – because deals have to be worked out at the party level.
Pantai Damai assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi said he initially thought that the election would be held in October when the support for the chief minister is mounting.
Much has been done by Adenan after he assumed the post of chief minister nearly 20 months ago. These include reducing electricity tariffs, abolition of toll in several places, standardising ferry fare to only RM1, commitment and firmness in eliminating illegal logging, checking immigration of illegal workers, addressing poaching by fishermen, being steadfast in demanding higher oil royalty from the federal government and demanding devolution of power to state departments in several sectors.
The matter of the redelineation of electoral boundaries is now with the Federal Court after the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court ruling nullifying the Election Commission notice of its recommendations for the proposed redelineation.
Thus, the prediction is that the election will have to be held in January or February next year.
Political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir is certain that the election will be held in March or April next year.
“It is needless for Tan Sri (Adenan) to rush; he is not in a hurry. His position is very stable, support for him is tremendous. There is much time, much more can be done,” said the senior lecturer of communication studies at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
Furthermore, he said, the chief minister would want the issue of the redelineation of electoral boundaries that provides for 11 more seats to be ironed out earlier.
Early this month, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said the final report on the redelineation of Sarawak electoral boundaries would be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in October.
Speaking to reporters in Kuala Lumpur, she said: “We think the Chief Minister will call the state election as early as possible.”
This has raised speculation that the election will be held soon.
Jeniri ruled out the possibility of the election being held in December, saying his observation showed that a state election in Sarawak has never been held at the end of the year.
A source which declined to be identified said Adenan may need the 11 additional seats to resolve the scramble for seats by the BN component parties and to offer some seats to the BN-friendly parties.
However, it is public knowledge that the BN-friendly parties can only be accepted into the BN family with the consensus of all existing component parties.
Lt Col (Rtd) Saiful Anwar Md Ali has high regard for Adenan’s leadership and said he was known to be firm although he may seem to be friendly, jovial and cracks jokes.
“He can spring a surprise and hold the election this year. However, my prediction is that it will be held next year. I expect it to be held after February,” said the senior lecturer of the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sarawak.
He said many things happening at the end of the year, among them the floods, ruled out the possibility of the election being held soon.
Furthermore, Christmas is celebrated widely and grandly in Sarawak, and so is Chinese New Year, which usually falls in January or February.
Former general manager of the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama), Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, said he felt that the election would be held next year because time was too short to prepare for an election this year.
“It is not easy to hold a state election in a rush. Also, with the 11 new constituencies the burden of holding polls this time has increased tremendously,” said Azman, who is a newspaper columnist. – BERNAMA