Following its worse than expected performance at yesterday's Sarawak election, leaders of opposition component DAP said it would take time out to assess its losses, but said it would still continue its push to include more non-Chinese leaders into its roster.
"Our greatest regret is that we couldn't present a united front in the Sarawak state elections. Results have shown that things might be different. We'll look at it after we had a rest. Time for everyone to have a rest, to recover, to fight another day," DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang told a press conference at the party state headquarters in Kuching today.
Lim admitted that voter sentiment would have been better for the opposition component had there been no clashes to begin with.
"It was an uphill election in any event, even without the clashes," said Lim, who was present with state DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen and several party leaders and defeated candidates
"I believe our supporters and members are very disappointed at this juncture," Chong said. "But let us channel this disappointment into action and resolve to move forward. For our supporters, we can mourn for a day or two, but after that, let's move on with greater resolution and spirit.
"DAP has won a lot of elections in recent years. I think the setback yesterday is a time for us to reflect and to pick up the pieces and to see how to improve ourselves and to move on. I can assure and promise the people of Sarawak that we will not give up, that we will continue and we will come back with a bigger force," he said.
"We have suffered greater defeats before, we have recovered from the defeats, and achieved higher ground after the defeats," he added.
DAP is reeling from the shock of losing five seats of the twelve it controlled. BN Chinese component Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) took back Batu Kawah, Repok, Meradong, Dudong, and Piasau.
For a Sarawak state election, it is the highest number of opposition incumbents lost on record.
DAP also lost on all six seats it clashed with PKR. DAP had contested 31 seats, winning seven seats. PKR retained its three seats, out of the 40 seats it contested. Amanah lost all 13 seats it contested in its debut election.
DAP had lost its contest for Batu Kitang, the sole urban seat of the 11 newly created seats after a delineation exercise carried by the Election Commission (EC).
SUPP's Lo Khere Chiang garnered 6,466 votes beating DAP's Abdul Aziz Isa and PKR's Voon Shiak Ni, who received 4,624 and 883 votes respectively.
The party, however, has made some inroads into rural seats in terms of popular votes. In Tasik Biru for example, DAP's Bidayuh candidate Mordi Bimiol garnered 5,634 votes against 6,922 votes that went to Henri Jinep, the candidate from BN Dayak component Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).
In comparison, in the 2013 general election, Mordi received 5,293 votes when he lost his contest for the Parliamentary seat of Mas Gading, which encompasses both Tasik Biru and Opar.
It is uncertain whether voter turnout had affected the election results. The EC said turnout was at 70 percent yesterday, a jump from the 52 percent recorded at the close of polling at 5pm. Election watch groups have questioned the validity of EC's figures. DAP has charged that the EC was in collusion with BN and that gerrymandering had distorted results.
During the run up to the election, at least a dozen DAP leaders were banned from entering Sarawak by state immigration authorities.
However, Chong admitted that voter sentiment had shifted away from the opposition component due to the 'Adenan factor', a series of populist policy changes by chief minister Adenan Satem that reduced living costs.
Adenan, who took office in 2014, also promised support to Chinese education and the right of Christians to practice their faith as they wished, outside Islamist interference from peninsula Malaysia.
"There is also the lack of prospects for a change of government, the low voter turnout and money politics, which is largely at play in rural areas and to a certain extent, in semi-urban areas," Chong (photo) said.
Other factors that DAP leaders felt had affected opposition results were the lack of coverage by the government-owned media, the use of BN-affiliated voter registration booths near voting stations, threats to deny allocations to areas that vote opposition, the campaign by Prime Minister Najib Razak and Umno ministers in the run-up to polling, and the promise of RM3.5 billion in development projects for Sarawak by Najib.
Chong also claimed that party members had their phones hacked during the campaign, through which racially inflammatory messages were sent in their names: "And there is still an online smearing campaign against our candidates, carried out by people whose identities we do not know."
Meanwhile, Lim urged party support despite the losses: "There is no need to for everything to be bleak and gloomy. Although DAP suffered a crushing defeat in this Sarawak election, it is not going to be smooth sailing for Adenan. In fact you still have ten assemblypersons in the state assembly."
"The (opposition's) objectives are still there. There is no reason for Adenan to feel that he is at the top of the world, but let him feel so today."
The next general election must be called by June 24, 2018.