Political observer expecting interesting battle for Balai Ringin seat in next state polls

KUCHING: A political observer is expecting an interesting battle for the Balai Ringin seat in the next state election, following the recent announcement by Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) that it is fielding Datuk Masir Kujat as the party’s candidate for the seat.

University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute director Prof James Chin observed that in Sarawak, incumbents are more inclined to win elections but not in a case where an elected representative is challenging the incumbent.

He also lauded PSB for having announced its candidate for Balai Ringin at such an early stage, which would allow constituents involved ample time to learn more about the candidate.

“In Sarawak, the incumbent always has an advantage but in this case, another elected YB (elected representative) is challenging. So it should be interesting.

“It’s good that PSB announced their candidate earlier. It will allow for people to get to know their candidate earlier,” he said when asked to comment on PSB’s recent announcement that it is fielding Masir as its candidate for Balai Ringin in the coming state election.

Chin, who is an expert in governance issues in Southeast Asia especially Malaysia, opined that Balai Ringin assemblyman cum incumbent Datuk Snowdan Lawan should be concerned about Masir’s challenge.

“Masir will of course be a threat to (Snowdan) Lawan given that he (Masir) is an experienced politician and MP,” he added.

Chin, however, said it was still premature to rate the chances of Masir wresting the seat from Snowdan in the coming state polls, adding that even the election date has not been announced yet.

Last Saturday, PSB president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh announced Masir as the party’s candidate to be standing in Balai Ringin.

Masir is the first candidate announced by PSB to contest under the ticket of the party in the next state polls.

Masir, 65, was first elected as the Sri Aman MP in the 2008 general elections under the ticket of Barisan Nasional (BN)-Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).

He was re-elected for the subsequent terms in 2013 and 2018.

In July 2015, Masir was appointed as Deputy Home Affairs Minister, succeeding Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, until BN lost Putrajaya in May 2018.

Snowdan first contested in and won Balai Ringin during the 2006 state election.

The 48-year-old was re-elected in the 2011 and 2016 state elections, and is currently Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports.

In the last state election, Snowdan successfully defended Balai Ringin after polling 4,478 votes in a four-cornered fight with Independent candidate Entusa Imam, who garnered 2,439 votes, Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) Nicholas Mujah Ason (700 votes) and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru’s (PBDSB) Pok Ungkut (90 votes).

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