The recently concluded Sarawak elections is not a sign of how its residents will vote in the 14th national polls as there are strong signs of a regional and federal divide in who they support.
This is despite the belief among some Barisan Nasional supporters that the results had vindicated scandal-tainted Prim e Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and secured the BN’s hold on 15 out of Sarawak’s 20 parliamentary seats.
Sarawakian political scientist Prof James Chin said neither the Federal B N nor the Opposition Pakatan Harapan can assume that the voting trends in the Sarawak elections could be replicated in the next national polls which are expected in 2018.
The only time a group of voters from the Peninsula and Sarawak chose in concert w as in the 13th general elections in 2013, when the Chinese com m unity on both sides of the sea cast their ballots for the Opposition, said Chin.
Instead, strong regional parochialism could drive Sarawakians to choose one party or coalition for their state government and the opposite one to represent them at the federal level.
“This has not happened since the 1980s but it could happen again. ‘Team Adenan’ is different from the federal BN,” said Chin, Director of the Asia Institute of the University of Tasmania.
“We could see split voting w here Sarawakians vote for a different party for parliament and another party for the state government,” he said during a presentation at Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur recently.
‘Team Adenan’ is Sarawak BN ’s moniker during the M ay elections which centred around hugely popular Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem .
Team Adenan combined regional sentiments such as ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’, more grants to Chinese vernacular schools and churches and massive cash handouts into an effective platform that saw Sarawak BN w in a landslide 72 out of 82 state seats.
Adenan’s popularity and anger at a bickering Opposition coalition also helped Sarawak BN recapture five seats that had been held by the DAP , the Opposition party with the biggest number of seats in Sarawak.
It is not only the federal-level B N who should refrain from using Sarawak as a bell-weather, said Chin, who is also a Senior Fellow at Sunway University’s Jeffrey Cheah Institute of Southeast Asia.
The Opposition Pakatan Harapan parties, DAP and PKR , had also invested heavily in trying to win rural non-Muslim bumiputera seats and had expected a major swing in support towards them .
“But this did not happen, at the last minute they swung back towards the BN. Also just because rural Sarawkians supported Team Adenan this does not mean that rural West Malaysians will support the Federal BN.”– May 13, 2016.
Source – The Malaysian Mirror