Pakatan needs 20pc swing to capture Sarawak – By Debra Chong

The Malaysian Insider | KUALA LUMPUR, 14-July-2010 — A five per cent voter swing in Election 2008 saw Pakatan Rakyat (PR) take charge of five state governments in peninsular Malaysia, but the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) rivals in Sarawak will need four times that to unseat the ruling front.

Political analyst Faizal Hazis said today that PR’s dream of taking over Putrajaya by capturing Sarawak in the coming state polls, widely expected to be held soon, is “ridiculous”.

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud has been ruling the state under the BN banner for the past 29 years.

The Opposition bloc in Malaysia’s largest state only has eight out of 71 seats in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly.

The DAP holds the lion’s share with six seats, with one seat each belonging to PKR and Sarawak National Party (Snap).

“To change the state government, it will need at least a 20 per cent voter swing…which equals 36 seats,” the Universiti Sarawak (Unimas) department head of political and international relations told reporters here today.

The lecturer recently teamed up with the independent Merdeka Center to present an analysis of voting behaviour in Sarawak.

In his paper titled “Between Continuity and Change”, Faisal noted there were 12 “marginal seats” or those that showed a greater likelihood of falling to PR.

With the eight already in PR’s hands, the new total would “still not be enough to deny the ruling party a two-thirds majority’ in the state legislative assembly, he said.

While Sarawak’s politics is not racially-driven, Faisal said the electorate had generally voted along party lines.

The voters, especially the Bumiputera, want a party that can fulfil their development needs.

“Generally, this means Barisan Nasional,” he said, adding that the ruling front’s traditional strategy of dishing out development projects will likely remain an effective tool in ensuring it wins substantial votes.

Certain short-term factors could still tip the scales in PR’s favour, Faisal said, pointing to the Bersih and Hindraf rallies in West Malaysia and more recently, the DAP’s “Allah” campaign in the Sibu by-election two months ago as examples.

But it may not be enough, as voters in Sarawak still look at the candidate’s credentials in elections.

A recent public opinion survey by the Merdeka Center showed 64 per cent of the electorate firmly backing the BN, because they believed the ruling coalition was capable of delivering reforms.

But both Faisal and the Merdeka Center admitted the survey was not definitive.

“The poll did not ask Sarawakians whether they wanted Taib Mahmud to be CM though,” Faisal quipped.