Two-party system taking shape in Sarawak
KUCHING: The political landscape in Sarawak – a Barisan Nasional stronghold and part of the ruling coalition’s fixed deposit in East Malaysia for parliamentary seats – will witness the formation of a true bipartisan system.
This is already taking shape given the ongoing exploratory discussions between DAP and Sarawak Workers Party (SWP), especially in the wake of the latter’s confirmation on Aug 28 that it had abandoned its BN-friendly stance.
Both Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen and SWP president Larry Sng have been tight-lipped about the details of the informal discussions as well as the specifics of the common ground and respective strategies.
When contacted by theantdaily, Chong merely stated, “We have had several informal meetings. As far as the party policies go, there are no direct contradictions and there is room for us to cooperate.
“We will finalise the issues and the details later but the possibility of working together is there.
“I do agree with Larry’s position in that the two-party system in Malaysia is taking its form although it’s still quite a very young stage in its initial form at the moment.
“But surely, this is the wave of the future for the country,” he said.
On possible collaboration with DAP, Sng said even less: “It is too early for us to disclose the details to the public right now but I will make a statement at the right time.”
This is understandable given SWP ending its self-proclaimed allegiance to BN – a move which was met with negative reaction from certain state BN individuals who chided the party for the change in direction.
This is ironic given Sarawak BN’s already negative or otherwise apathetic stance when SWP had consistently declared its position to stand with BN prior to the May 5 general election.
There must be time for things to simmer down and for DAP and SWP to get their respective bearings before the necessary ground work towards significant progress can be done.
If the two parties are to cooperate and effectively merge their respective strengths towards common goals, they will pose a formidable threat to the state’s BN coalition in the run-up to the next state election due by 2016.
DAP has proved its commanding presence and popularity in the urban areas it contested in the 2011 state election, winning 12 seats and effectively doubling its seats from the previous 2006 election.
It had also managed to gain about half of the overall 41.2 per cent popular votes given to Pakatan Rakyat, shared with coalition partners PKR, Sarawak National Party (SNAP) and PAS.
SWP has yet to prove itself in the state polls because the party is just over a year old (having been registered with the Registrar of Societies in April 2012), but it did not win any seats in the 13th general election.
That being said, Sng is no newcomer – despite his youth – as he was state assemblyman for Pelagus and a BN man for years under the flag of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) until he was ousted after a lengthy internal struggle.
Among his strengths are his ability to effectively go down on the ground and comprehend the relevant issues at the grassroots level (especially in rural communities) while being admirably savvy in connecting with people via a multitude of channels.
Also throwing some interesting possibilities into the state’s political arena is the emergence of five new parties which were officially announced by the ROS on Sept 2.
The arrival of Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak, Parti Bumi Kenyalang, Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru, Parti Ekonomi Rakyat Sarawak Bersatu and People’s Alliance for Justice of Peace on the scene has been met with reactions from both BN and Pakatan.
In an SMS to theantdaily, Sng stated: “We are open to work with like-minded people. However, I don’t foresee roundtable discussions to be held anytime soon.
“These parties would need time to chart their direction and meet their supporters. Once they have settled these matters then we are ready to talk.”
In an earlier interview with theantdaily, Chong brought up the possibility that it could be BN’s long-term plan to use one or more of the newbies to split the rural votes to undermine Pakatan.
This time around, he maintained a more neutral (but perhaps still wary) stance.
“It’s still too early at the moment to come to any conclusion with respect to their inclinations whether it is to BN or Pakatan.
“We’ll wait and see what the positions of these new parties are.”