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By Lian Cheng
The historical number of 349 candidates participating in this 12th Sarawak Election is not a surprise. It was also no surprise that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) dominated the scene by fielding 82 candidates; after all, it is the ruling coalition.
It did however, come as a surprise that at the end of nomination day yesterday, it was a local opposition party — Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK), which does not hold any seats in the Sarawak Assembly or Parliament that turned out to be the party fielding the highest number of candidates, even more than those from Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB, which held six seats before the dissolution of the Sarawak Assembly) and Pakatan Harapan (PH, which held five Sarawak seats).
PBK became politically active after senior lawyer and former Batu Lintang assemblyman Voon Lee Shan took helm of the party in 2019. When the dust finally settled yesterday, tabulations showed that PBK contested in 73 seats — three seats more than PSB and 11 seats more than PH.
It did raise a few eyebrows, considering it used to be placed among the league of “mosquito parties” such as Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi) and the new Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak (PBDSB) and Parti Sedar Rakyat Sarawak (Sedar).
Raising funds for PBK’s 73 candidates no doubt was a mammoth task. A total of 73 candidates means a grand total of RM584,000 must be raised as each candidate must place a deposit of RM8,000.
To explain, RM3,000 is refundable if the candidate plays his or her part in clearing all banners and flags after the election.
The balance of RM5,000 may be refundable but the power lies with the voters as it is only refundable if the candidate manages to secure the minimum of one-eighth of the total votes cast. Failure to do so would mean losing their deposit.
There may be doubts of how much PBK may be able to recoup at the end of the election, in view that most of its candidates are new faces not known to the constituents, but one must salute Voon for managing to do so.
PBK is a new party and one without strong financial support. Voon, indeed, pulled a miracle for managing to get this far.
Comparatively, PSB which is rumoured to have strong financial support competed only in 70 seats, after making a much publicised claim of its intention to unseat the present GPS government.
PH which consists of Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) is also disappointing compared to PBK as it is part of the national opposition which was once responsible for unseating the previous Federal government.
PH Sarawak is only vying for 62 seats with PKR Sarawak is going for 28 seats, Amanah 8 and DAP Sarawak, 26 seats.
Smaller parties such as Aspirasi, the new PBDS and Sedar took their chances by contesting in 15, 11 and five seats respectively.
One may argue that it is not the number of seats a party contests that counts, rather, it is the number of seats won. This is very true. At the end of the day, it is the number of seats that a party wins that determines the strength of the party.
In this race where 349 contenders (319 from 13 political parties and 30 independents) vying for 82 seats where there will only be 82 winners, it means there will be undoubtedly be 267 losers.
The casualty rate is high. It also heralds a high number of candidates losing their deposits.
In the 2016 Sarawak Election, of the 229 candidates contested, 69 of them or 30 per cent of these candidates lost their deposits following the failure to secure a minimum of one-eighth of the total votes cast.
With 349 candidates joining the fray in search of their dreams to be ‘Yang Berhormat’, how many do you think will lose their deposits when many of them are Tom, Dick and Harry’s to you and me and their voters? — DayakDaily
The number of seats contested by 13 political parties and independent candidates:
|Coalition||Party||Seat contested based on party||Seat contested based on coalition|