BN retains two-thirds majority but Sarawak’s fixed deposit shattered
UPDATED @ 06:59:35 AM 17-04-2011
KUCHING, April 16 — The Barisan Nasional (BN) has managed to keep its two-thirds legislative majority in Sarawak but today’s results have shattered the coalition’s invincibility and the notion of a fixed deposit in future elections.
The DAP doubled its presence to 12 and PKR tripled its representation although the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lynchpin had contested in 49 seats. PAS lost in all five seats it contested while Independent George Lagong took one seat.
The number of state seats to the Opposition pact will spell danger for BN as it could help them win more parliamentary seats when the general election is called by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. PR now has 75 MPs but the Sarawak win could translate into more in the future.
At 10.55pm, BN was declared the winner for 55, or 75 per cent, of the 71 seats in the Sarawak legislature. In the 2006 elections, it won 62 out of the 71 seats. Initial estimates showed that BN's popular vote went down from 62.93 per cent in 2006 to 55.24 per cent in today's polling.
The biggest upset was SUPP president and Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri George Chan Hong Nam losing the Piasau state seat to DAP’s Ling Sie Kiong.
The six-term incumbent’s defeat could spell the end of the SUPP, which won only six of the 19 seats it contested.
BN had expected to lose up to 20 seats in this state election as the Opposition had centred its campaign on long-serving Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, whose reluctance to step down has even apparently infuriated national BN leaders.
Najib had pledged that this would be Taib’s last election and he would leave soon after but the veteran leader has said openly in front of the BN chairman that he will stick around for a few more years.
He made good that promise by quickly taking his oath of office as chief minister for the seventh time at 10.30pm which was broadcast live through national and satellite television.
Critics believe Taib's continued presence could help move more support to PR, which won its seats despite limited money, logistics and media presence.
Najib himself had to spend six days canvassing for votes across Malaysia’s largest state and state BN officials estimate that the coalition has spent nearly RM500 million to secure today’s victory.
Opposition leaders had concurred before today’s polling, saying BN officials had openly offered cash for support.
Sources within the Election Commission (EC) said BN won most of the seats as more from the older generation turned up to cast their ballots early compared to the younger generation who are known to support the Opposition.
“The trend was always for BN from early on in the day,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.
He pointed out that Taib’s PBB won all 35 seats that were contested reflecting the leader’s popularity among the Melanau community.
Today’s results will come as a relief to the ruling coalition which scrambled at the tail-end of the campaign to counter the massive crowds that thronged Opposition rallies in major towns.
But PR leaders were upbeat that they scored well in the state election.
“The future is bright for Pakatan in Sarawak. I don’t think BN leadership will dare to call for GE in next few months,” DAP national chairman Karpal Singh told reporters here.
However, PKR leaders were not around or too despondent to comment on the results.