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S’wak BN rural grip weakening as results show opposition inroads

While BN continued its winning streak in rural areas across Sarawak, a deeper look into election results show its grip might be weakening.

PKR picked up thousands of votes in the interiors, despite BN bigwigs including Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak traversing deep into the heartlands with promises of funding for churches, schools and longhouses.

In Marudi, some 130 km from Miri, where PKR’s Elia Bit doubled the party’s voter pool.

In the 2011 state election, PKR won 21 percent of votes cast there but on Saturday, 42 percent of voters in Marudi picked Elia.

A similar pattern was seen in neighbouring constituency Telang Usan where a significant 48 percent of votes in the non-Muslim bumiputera majority seat went to PKR’s Roland Engan.

Roland may be feeling bitter defeat after losing by only 167 votes, but there is still cause to celebrate. In 2011, only 35 percent of votes cast in Telang Usan were for PKR.

In Layar, Sarawak PKR’s information chief Vernon Kedit (photo) won 2,503 votes - 27 percent of voters in the constituency. This is a five percent improvement compared to five years ago.

Party veep Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, one of the few PKR top brass allowed into the state, said the results shows the party has sent “shock vibrations through the heartland of the Sarawakian bumiputeras”.

“The results shows serious cracks in Barisan's control over rural Sarawak,” PKR’s vice-president Dr Xavier Jeyakumar said in a statement.

“I call upon my Pakatan brothers that we must build windmills and push the agenda for change in rural Sarawak.

"Baru Bian personifies and symbolises that change as we look forward to 2021," he said.

Baru, who is Sarawak PKR chief retained his Ba'Kelalan seat, while PKR also retained the Iban-majority Krian.

Anti-BN sentiments are also evident in Mambong, a rural constituency a couple of hour’s drive from Kuching.

While it would not have been enough to oust BN in the new constituency, DAP and PKR collectively raked in 46.2 percent of total votes cast there.

DAP took home 24 percent of that - a significant achievement for a party which had prior to this never made much of a dent in bumiputera-majority seats in Sarawak.

In a straight fight in Bidayuh-majority Tasik Biru, DAP’s Mordi Nimbol won 45 percent of votes cast.

Not all good news

PAS, however, did poorer in the only seat it had a chance of winning - Beting Maro. Its vote share dropped from 46 percent in 2011 to 38 percent last Saturday.

It is not all good news, either for PKR and DAP in the interiors. For example, in Ngemah, a 92 percent non-Muslim majority seat, both the DAP and PKR candidates lost their deposits.

The disastrous outcome, DAP’s publicity chief Tony Pua said, was not because the parties did not do enough ground work.

In Ngemah, Pakan and Simanggang, the independent candidates who outshone DAP and PKR were “nobodies of particular significance, other than the fact that they were backed by rich and powerful forces who gave BN the run for their money”.

Money remains the biggest hurdle of campaigning in the interiors, he says.

“In rural districts, our campaign teams were peppered with cash requests on a daily basis.

“‘Supporters’ turning up for nomination will follow up by camping at our campaign office awaiting their ‘allowance’.

“You want work done? Pay up. You want PACA (polling agents and counting agents)? Pay up. You want to campaign at a longhouse? Pay up. You want people to attend ceramah? Pay up.

“And of course, on the final day, voters were asking how much were we paying for their votes,” he said in a statement.

Sarawak BN chief Adenan Satem earned his mandate as chief minister with BN controlling a super-majority of the legislative assembly, winning 72 out of 82 seats.

DAP lost five seats it won in 2011, retaining only seven while PKR retained all three seats, including urban Batu Lintang.

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