Sarawak heads to the polls today in what is expected to be a landslide victory for the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition, which is contesting all 82 seats in the massive state legislative assembly.
But while victory is all but certain for GPS, an analyst says it remains to be seen whether its chairman Abang Johari Openg will be able to top the 72 seats won by the late Adenan Satem in the 2016 election.
Sarawak politics observer James Chin of the University of Tasmania said the results would be very close.
“GPS will gain more than 60 seats,” he said.
“They can get more than that if they can swing the mood of the voters to vote for them,” he told MalaysiaNow.
A total of 1.2 million voters are eligible to vote today, with the Election Commission expecting a 70% voter turnout.
The Sarawak legislative assembly was dissolved on Nov 3 after the king consented to the revocation of the extended state of emergency.
Before the dissolution of the state assembly, GPS had held 68 seats – 47 belonging to Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), 11 to Parti Rakyat Sarawak, seven to the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), and three to Progressive Democratic Party.
On the opposition bench, SUPP splinter Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) had held six seats while Sarawak DAP held five and Bersatu one. There was also one seat held by an independent and one vacant.
PBB, the lynchpin party of GPS, is expected to make a clean sweep of the Malay and Melanau majority seats this time around – 26 out of the total 47 seats being contested by its candidates.
Meanwhile, the tussle between PSB, led by Wong Soon Koh, and Pakatan Harapan – particularly its component DAP – could result in DAP losing one of the seven seats it had won in 2016, Chin said.
The seven seats were Pending, Padungan, Kota Sentosa, Pujut, Bukit Assek, Tg Batu and Pelawan.
“I predict that DAP will not be able to hang on to all seven seats,” Chin said. “This time, it will be fewer than that.”
For Chin, the real contender to GPS is PSB.
In any case, he added, the election this time around will be a referendum on Abang Johari’s performance as chief minister.
In early voting on Dec 14, a total of 89% or 18,141 individuals turned out to cast their ballots.