The 10th Sarawak state election is on! Both the ruling Barisan Nasional (The National Front) and the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance) have revealed their manifestoes and are busy campaigning.
Sarawak has always been considered Barisan's fixed deposit and how true. In the last General Election in 2008, the opposition coalition Pakatan had in fact won the popular votes in peninsular Malaysia by something like 52-48 percentage but the votes from Sabah and Sarawak enabled Barisan to win and go on to form the Federal government.
In the past, Barisan had won the Sarawak state election unopposed on many occassions. This time around, Barisan is facing fights in nearly all but a few out of the 71 state seats.
The Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud himself is facing two challengers, Puan Suriati Abdullah. a Chinese Muslim convert of PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat or People's Justice Party) and Salleh Jafaruddin, an independent candidate, and Taib's own cousin.
The Balingan seat is Taib's stronghold and in the past, nobody would have given his opponent any chance to win. In fact, Taib Mahmud had won the seat unopposed many times in the past.
This time around, it may be different given the many allegations of the Chief Minister's amassing of wealth for himself, his family members and cronies at the expense of the people. There are allegations that he has business interests in companies spanning across 8 countries.
The allegations of corruption and misuse of powers are such that even the sister-in-law of former Bristish Prime Minister Gordan Brown was said to have a hand in Radio Free Sarawak which has been telling of Taib's alleged abuses Ex-British PM's relative behind Radio Free Sarawak
Another factor that may help the opposition in making a significant inroad into Sarawak this time around, is the Malay language Bible issue. Some 35,000 copies of the Bibles had been impounded by the authorities who only agreed to release them on the condition that every copy be stamped with a serial number and marked "For Christians Only".
The issue had been dragging on for sometime as the Christain community are understandably unhappy about the whole thing. It is only recently with the Sarawak election on, that the authorities have agreed to relax the condition a little, but it remains to be seen how the Christians voters in Sarawak respond to the issue.
It must be noted that Sarawak has the highest number of Christians in Malaysia, forming some 43% of the state population.
But despite the two issues in favour of the opposition, it will still be an uphill task for it to pull off an upset win for several reasons.
1. Barisan has vast resources, including finance.
2. With an at best lackadaisal Election Commission, anything goes when it comes to election abuses.
3. Pakatan has limited resources.
4. Except for DAP, the other Pakatan partners PKR and PAS do not have much of an established presence. And even DAP's presence is only in the urban Chinese majority constituencies.
5. Many of the constituencies are rural constituencies and remote and access to them is only possible by boats.
6. Not surprisingly, Barisan has been reported to have block-booked the boats.
However, it does appear that for the first time, Barisan may not be too confident. They have started their campaign on the defensive trying to put down Anwar as unfit person to lead the people.
Even before the official state election campaign kicked off, a 2 minutes snippet of a video of a man allegedly resembling Anwar having a roam with a woman surfaced on you-tube. Many consider this a poor attempt to smear Anwar's good name, following the cloak and dagger revelation by Datuk T of a video allegedly showing Anwar having sex with an unidentified woman in various positions.Is Anwar A Sex Maniac? and Alleged Anwar Sex Video Part Two
It seems that Barisan has even resorted to invoking the supernatural to aid their campaign.Of 'mirings' evil spirits, curses, Taib and his latest lady rival
Taib Mahmud has promised in his campaign to make Sarawak the richest state in Malaysia if the people return Barisan to power in Sarawak. This is interesting, because Taib Mahmud has been the Chief Minister of the state for 30 years already. Why has he not been able to do so in all his years as the Chief Minister? Is he admitting that he has failed in his job as the Chief Minister all these years?
Sarawak is rich in natural resources, including timber, petrochemicals and minerals deposits but Sarawak is regarded as one of the the poorest states in Malaysia, if not the poorest!
Are the people of Sarawak going to vote for the status quo or are they going to vote for change as the opposition Pakatan is promising to bring if Sarawak voters give them a chance.We shall know by16th April, the day fixed for the Sarawak state election.
The outcome will surely determine whether or not Najib as the Prime Minister calls for a snap general election.
Should Barisan win convincingly, Najib is very likely to call for a snap general election this year. Otherwise, many believe Najib will try to postpone calling for a general election for as long as possible since one is only legally due in 2013.
But Najib should not try to postpone calling for a general election, as he did not become the Prime Minister on his own steam. He became one because Abdullah Badawi was forced to leave office as the previous Prime Minister.