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Malaysia: Ruling Coalition Tops Sarawak Elections

On Saturday 16 April, 2011, Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition won the state election in Sarawak, winning 55 of the 71 seats contested to retain its control and two-thirds majority over the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition alliance.

Blogger OutSyed The Box wrote on Sunday 17 April, that the BN successfully used blogs to counter misinformation, a similar strategy employed by the opposition in the federal general election in 2008:

Granted that the Pakatan folks have their legitimate grouses and the BN folks also have their legitimate grouses but the Pakatan folks were also using fake information and really dirty tricks to win the vote. The BN Bloggers were most useful to counter false news and dirty tricks like these at light speed. Within minutes the Blogs were updated and fighting back.

He also called for respect for everyone’s votes.

Looking at the voting patterns over the past few years we cannot ignore the consistent resoluteness among the Chinese to vote for the Opposition. This is my view: I do respect the Chinese voters who stood their ground most firmly and voted for the Opposition. Just like we all must respect all the people who voted for the BN. Malaysia is a democracy. Let us not forget that. Everyone has the right to vote their conscience. And we must always safeguard the peoples’ right to freely vote their conscience.

Turtleinvestor shared a similar opinion on the 16 April:

Yeah, BN won 2/3. Am I dissapointed? Yes, I'm but then I will have to respect the decision of people. There is no point to speculate whether the ruling party has used dirty tactics or not. If people have not been happy not matter how much they have been “bribed”, they will vote against people who do not work for them at the ballots — just like what they did in 2008. Blame it Sarawak is a big state, not that internet savvy yet or etc, the opposition will need to reflect what went wrong, accept accountability and responsibility. They need to fight again in another day.

Sarawak map from Wikipedia Commons

Richard Loh thinks that it is simply not good enough for the Opposition to claim that a ‘political tsunami’ has arrived in Malaysia (following the 2008 federal general election when the BN lost its two-thirds majority) without actually making progress.

For Pakatan Rakyat to make inroads into Sarawak and Sabah or rather to gain state power there are many challenges and obstacles that PR has to face and fend off and by just shouting and claiming that the tsunami has arrived is simply not good enough. The best bet is to work with the local leaders, members and political parties that are serious in wanting change as they are the ones who know better the in-things of their states. TALK less and WORK more. By talking too much you allow the media especially umno's to spin more.

It is hope that Pakatan Rakyat will not stay jubilant over the small gain for too long but start looking into what went wrong for their failure to deny Umno/BN/Taib the two third majority, if I am not wrong, this is their main objective.

Khoo Kay Peng, however, does not view the election result as an outright win by the BN:

The Sarawak outcome has effectively cancelled out the gains PM Najib had enjoyed in the last couple by-elections. The fact that the coalition has performed worse than 2006 is going to put additional pressure on his leadership of UMNO and Barisan Nasional which has a history of pushing out leaders who perform poorly at the polls. Abdullah Badawi regime lost just 8 seats in the 2006 state elections.

Najib cannot afford to call a GE without solving the issue of leadership transition and a leader overstaying his presence (Sarawak Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has been in power since 1981). However, it is going to be very difficult to force down Taib. His party has just delivered a clean slate in the state elections.

General election which has been slated for mid-half of this year may be shelved temporarily until the coalition has digested the post-election analysis for Sarawak. According to UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin, the leadership transition promise in Sarawak must be fulfilled as soon as possible. The speed in which Taib installed himself as a Chief Minister of Sarawak is going to derail the promise.

Najib and the rest of BN component parties need to be able to reenergize their parties by recruiting young, credible, smart and energetic new members and candidates or risk suffering a worse defeat than 2008.

Popular Malaysian blogger Ahirudin Attan took a more neutral stance in his blog:

They said PR won seven more seats to bring the tally 55-15-1 (the one seat is won by an Independent candidate). I reminded them that PR went into the Sarawak election bragging that it was going to strip Taib Mahmud naked and end BN's reign.

This morning, Sarawak awakes to the same Chief Minister who has guided the state to where it is today for the last 3 decades. Taib has promised to step down after the election, and after finding the perfect successor. The Sarawak people have trusted him for 30 years, so they have no reason to doubt him now.

Taib will have to keep his word. No two ways about it.

Whether he leads the state into the next General Election does not matter. The Sarawak people have spoken. That's what matters most.

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