KUCHING: Disunity among opposition members and Pakatan Harapan’s checkered record were among the factors which contributed to Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s (GPS) landslide victory in the recent 12th state election.
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FSSH) deputy dean Dr Arnold Puyok said the opposition had not managed to present itself as a strong force in order to challenge GPS.
He also cited the remarkable achievements of GPS and its chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg as another factor behind the coalition’s big win.
“Sarawak managed to get Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) to pay five per cent tax on petroleum products, establish Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros), elevate English as the medium of teaching, and introduce international schools. There was also the constitutional amendment.
“These aspects managed to elevate GPS and boost its morale as well as boost the confidence of the people to support GPS,” he said during the ‘2021 Sarawak State Election: Outcomes and Implications’ online seminar organised by FSSH UNIMAS on Wednesday (Feb 9).
He also attributed GPS’ huge victory to the Covid-19 election standard operating procedure (SOP) being disadvantageous to the opposition, GPS’ incumbency advantage, and the low voter turnout.
“Even though the SOP restricted the movement of candidates, politically speaking, the SOP was advantageous to GPS. This is because most of the candidates who contested under GPS were already known to the voters,” he said.
Arnold pointed out that in the urban and semi-urban areas, there was a significant decrease in voter turnout compared to the 2016 state election.
“I would attribute the loss of support to Democratic Action Party (DAP) to the low voter turnout, especially the Chinese. In the Chinese areas, there was a very significant decrease in voter turnout compared to 2016,” he said.
In summary, he said in the election, Sarawakians voted for 3S – survival, security and Sarawak
He expected that GPS would continue its pragmatic approach in dealing with the federal government and also that the coalition would not allow any federal influence to try and dictate Sarawak politics.
He opined that GPS would support whoever was in power at the federal level as long as they agreed to deal with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and let the dominant player in Sarawak dictate state politics.
“I would also expect that Abang Johari will proceed with efforts to strengthen Sarawak’s autonomy; there will be more decentralisation and more devolution of power.
“But the question is how much concession the federal government is willing to give to Sarawak, especially in the areas of education, security, and other areas that are traditionally under the jurisdiction of the federal government,” said Arnold.