Despite being likely to uphold their losing track record as in all previous polls, many independent and opposition electoral candidates especially those contesting in Barisan Nasional’s stronghold areas in rural Sarawak, are still going against the odds to join the fray, regardless of how slim the chance of victory is.
In Malaysia’s electoral process, candidates have to pay a deposit of RM10,000 to stand in a parliamentary constituency and RM5,000 in a state seat. Failing to garner one eighth of the votes will results in them losing the deposit. Additionally, candidates have to place an additional deposit of RM5,000 to ensure the clearing up of posters, banners and other campaign materials at the end of polling.
However, many of these candidates who are predicting a good fight can’t even garner the minimum number of votes to keep their deposits.
One in five candidates at the 13th General Election (GE13) lost his or her deposit after failing to secure the minimum one eighth or 12.5 per cent of the ballots cast in their respective parliamentary or state constituency. Many of them were from Sarwak.
Sarawak’s biggest party Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and state Barisan Nasional (BN) backbone has a 100 per cent success rate in nearly all elections in recent years.
During GE13 in 2013, PBB won all of its 14 seats contested, while state BN counterparts Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democractic Party (SPDP) won all six seats contested and all four seats contested respectively. Only Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) did not manage to make a clean sweep, winning one seat out of seven seats contested.
Meanwhile, the Opposition alliance, the then Pakatan Rakyat had a mixed bag of results. Democratic Action Party (DAP) won five out of 10 seats contested, while Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) won one seat out of 15 seats contested. PAS lost in all three seats contested.
For parliamentary candidates, the smallest number of ballots received was by independent candidate Alirahman Kamseh, who stood in Lawas, Sarawak. He received 69 votes out of the 14,072 ballots cast.
Almost all independent candidates lost their deposits, as did State Reform Party (STAR), and two candidates fielded by Sarawak Workers’ Party (SWP).
Several candidates from the bigger parties also lost their deposits such as DAP’s Hai Merawin in Mukah parliamentary seat.
Lessons from Sarawak Election
If the last state election held in 2016 is of any indication, many candidates from the same parties are expected to lose.
PAS contested 11 seats and seven candidates lost their deposits; Amanah, which contested for the first time, fielded 13 candidates and nine of them lost their deposits. All 11 STAR candidates, 20 independents, four from Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB), 10 PKR candidates and seven DAP candidates also lost their deposits.
DAP won seven out of 31 seats contested while PKR retained its three seats, out of the 40 it contested.
Again, PBB had a 100 per cent victory, winning all 40 seats contested. PRS also won in all 11 seats contested while SPDP (now known as Progressive Democratic Party or PDP) won in three out of five contested and SUPP won seven out of 13 seats contested. There were 13 direct BN candidates and 11 of then won.
The two seats of Bukit Kota and Bukit Sari, were won by BN uncontested.
Not afraid to lose
Given the statistics and poor performance in the past, why should the opposition bother to contest in some of these areas that are impossible to win at all?
STAR, whose candidates had lost all deposits in previous polls, is now forming an alliance with other smaller parties and independents, to form the “third choice” for voters other than BN and Pakatan Harapan (PH). However, political pundits do not expect they will perform any better.
Meanwhile, PKR has always contested in the most number of seats in Sarawak — 15 out of 31 seats in GE13 and 40 out of 81 seats in the 2016 state election.
When asked, Sarawak PKR vice-president See Chee How said this is to make sure that BN will not win in some seats uncontested as other parties had no candidates for these areas.
He said 90 per cent of their candidates for GE14 are confirmed, and will be officially endorsed by the party’s headquarters together with the state leaders.
He acknowledged the challenges and difficulties of campaigning in rural Sarawak, compared to the huge resources of BN, both financially and in terms of election machinery. Since Sarawak will not have its state election at the same time, he foresees BN making use of state government facilities.
Additionally, the geography of Sarawak also poses a challenge. Sarawak with its vast size has the highest number of parliamentary seats in the country — 31 out of 222. The sizes of the state’s parliamentary constituencies are also much bigger than those of other states. For instance, in terms of land area, the constituency of P216 Hulu Rajang is equivalent to the whole of Pahang (which has 14 parliamentary seats). Also, the constituency of P220 Baram alone is as big as Perak (24 parliamentary seats).
Contesting with such disadvantages and limited resources, opposition candidates will need all the odds in their favour to win, or to keep their deposits. — DayakDaily