Monday, January 26, 2009

Power Struggle Continues

Promising future for PKR in Sarawak

Arfa'eza A Aziz

via Subang Jaya Web Forum - Sarawak Shocker

Having penetrated the Sarawak state assembly through its sole representative Dominique Ng - who won the Padungan seat last Saturday - Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has proven that it has the right formula to win the hearts of Sarawakians.

The party’s victory in the Chinese-majority seat in the state capital and the increase in popular votes garnered at several Malay seats proved that it is a force to be reckoned with in Sarawak. Although it failed to win any of the Malay seats held by Parti Pesaka Bumiputera (PBB), its popular votes increased tremendously compared to the 2001 state election. In Saribas and Sadong Jaya, which are PBB's traditional Malay and Melanau strongholds, PKR garnered almost 50% of the votes cast. PKR vice-president and election director Mohd Azmin Ali believed that PKR could have performed better if the election was conducted on an level playing field.

With all the difficulties encountered - BN propaganda, the Election Commission’s failure to conduct a free and fair election, unfair media coverage by the BN etc, the party still managed to get significant support in several constituencies, he said when contacted. Politically more matureMost locals met expressed their surprise at how fast PKR had shaken off the ‘party from Malaya’ label which was often used against it during the 10-day campaign period.

In fact, many had thought that Ng, who beat BN’s Lily Yong by a thumping 1,417 votes, would not stand a chance running under a PKR ticket. Who would have thought that a candidate from a Malay-majority party would win in a Chinese-majority seat? It is well-known that the Chinese community is unhappy with the BN, but many felt that this was not enough to sway their support to PKR. Ng was of the view that the opposition’s victory in four out of five seats in Kuching shows that the Chinese community has matured politically.

BN’s divide and rule strategies and fear tactics no longer work for the Chinese, he added. “The message is very clear. The Chinese support can no longer be taken for granted. If BN continues with its unfair policies, the Malays are going to follow suit,” said Ng. Azmin said that Ng’s victory showed that Sarawakians are ready to accept PKR as a multi-racial party. PKR’s performance had also put to rest doubts that the thousands who attended the string of ceramahs (political talks) by party bigwigs including its adviser Anwar Ibrahim and president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, would be translated to votes.Blessing in disguise.

Many had claimed that the majority who attended the ceramah did so out of curiosity. Anwar was also portrayed in a bad light by the local media except for the Chinese press which was quite sympathetic. An Iban journalist believed that the negative reporting by newspapers linked to Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud was a ‘blessing in disguise’ for the party. “I think the BN campaign to smear Anwar had prompted the people who are already dissatisfied with the BN to seek out the truth. Unfortunately for the BN and contrary to its claim that Anwar’s presence had no effect in Sarawak, the former deputy premier's charismatic personality had actually swayed the voters.

Ng believed that the Anwar factor had helped boost the people’s support for PKR when he went to the ground to meet the people. “His personal touch had opened the eyes of the Kuching people. He even walked with me in the streets of Padungan. It proves that the Chinese do not see him as the Muslim radical he has been falsely accused of, Ng said.

Indeed, Anwar’s presence and that of other top party leaders like Wan Azizah, Azmin and youth chief Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor had indeed been effective, said political science lecturer Dr Ahmad Nizamuddin Sulaiman from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.“I think the efforts of these top PKR leaders managed to pull in the votes. Perhaps the results would be different if they did not make their presence felt in Sarawak,” he said when contacted.

He said another factor for the opposition’s successes was the understanding reached by all political parties. The one-to-one contests in many constituencies worked in their favour, he added. Economic grouses. According to Ahmad, Chinese voters in the urban areas voted for the opposition to express their anger at the recent fuel price hike, the land lease issue and the little economic opportunities available which have badly affected their livelihood.

The DAP managed to capitalise on these issues and influence the Chinese electorate, he said. As for the Malay community, Ahmad believed that the votes cast for the opposition candidates came from the youths who are dissatisfied with practices of nepotism and cronyism by state leaders. “Issues relating to alleged corrupt acts by state leaders were highlighted in many PKR ceramah. Elderly voters rarely go for the opposition rallies so they were not exposed to such information.

So awareness on the issue had swayed young voters away from PBB,” he said. He dismissed the idea that the Malay anger would subside once Abdul Taib steps down as chief minister. “I don’t think his retirement would do anything to assuage the dissatisfaction. Yes, many are unhappy with him but they also know that he is not the only one practicing nepotism and cronyism.

There are also others in his circle. “Look at PBB Wanita chief Sharifah Mordiah Tuanku Fauziah whose seat was inherited and won by her daughter Syarifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali. So it’s not just Taib. The others are in the same boat too. “Even when he retires, he will probably be replaced by a candidate of his choice and so it goes around the same circle. I believe then that this anti-establishment sentiments against the government will continue," said Ahmad.

Looking ahead. What’s next? What should PKR do to ensure that the people’s support will continue and grow? It must consider this seriously as it would be facing the next general election in less than three years. One of its main tasks will be to preserve the informal ties it had with Snap and the yet-to-registered MDC under the Barisan Bersatu Sarawak coalition as well as its understanding with other opposition parties like DAP and PAS.

Ahmad said that it should find ways to form a real and practical coalition of opposition parties. “Apart from Snap and MDC, PKR must work with DAP and set aside their differences to form a credible coalition. Also the communication between PKR top guns and Sarawakians must continue. “If these leaders abandon Sarawak after this, they might not get the same treatment when they come back for the next election,” he added.

Ng said he is confident that the road for the opposition will be clear now that it has more representatives in the state assembly. “This is a great beginning for the opposition. We have now gained a strong foothold in Sarawak. Now we have to get down to work”.

Comments:Political alliance is fragile in this land. You are in the coalition government today and outside tomorrow. Tradition and modernity sometimes blend together creating a new kind of political outlook. This is easily formed, but sometimes they don't work perfectly thus showing a limited level of political maturity.

No comments: