The number 47

The logos of PBB, SUPP, PRS, PDP and GPS.

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Commentary

By Lian Cheng

Number 47 is the total number of seats to be contested by Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu in the upcoming 12th Sarawak Election which will falls on Dec 18, 2021.


How did PBB come to hold 47 seats instead of the 40 seats it contested in the 2016 Sarawak Election?

On Nov 3, before the dissolution of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) following the lifting of the Emergency, PBB was holding 47 out of the total of 82 seats, including Mambong and Pakan.

So on Nov 19 when PBB secretary-general Dato Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi in a press conference announced that the party will be contesting 47 seats, there was no surprise.

But following the announcement, it became clear as day that PBB is laying claim to two of three seats being disputed over, that is Mambong and Pakan.

The Mambong seat is in contention because its incumbent Datuk Dr Jerip Susil was from Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) and Pakan incumbent Tan Sri William Mawan was formerly in Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (which later changed its name to Progressive Democratic Party or PDP). Both men, after a series of dramatic political episodes, joined PBB.

When Sarawak Governor Tun Pehin Sri Taib Abdul Mahmud was still the Chief Minister, he upheld the check-and-balance mechanism within the then State-ruling coalition Sarawak Barisan Nasional (Sarawak BN) which is now known as Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

Under Taib, the total number of seats allocated for Sarawak BN component parties had always one or two seats more than that of PBB. In 2011 when the total number of State seats was 71, PBB held 35 seats, and the three component parties of SUPP, SPDP and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) were allocated the remaining 36 seats to contest.

This is to say, if the three component parties managed to win all seats allocated to them and if they were to come together, they have enough clout to veto any PBB decision within GPS.

This practice of check-and-balance within Sarawak BN however, was disrupted by former Sarawak BN chairman Pehin Sri Adenan Satem who absorbed elected representatives loyal to Sarawak BN but were left outside of the coalition due to internal strife in component parties such as SUPP and the then SPDP.

The power struggle within SPDP had led to its then president Mawan pulling out of the party, bringing with him four State lawmakers. These dissenters then formed a new party called Parti Tenaga Sarawak or Teras, which was Sarawak BN-friendly.

Similarly in SUPP, party infighting had led to its then deputy president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh leaving the party, taking with him four State lawmakers to form a new party called United People’s Party (UPP) which later changed its name to Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).

Meanwhile, the re-delineation exercise in 2016 resulting in the creation of 11 new seats also played a role in causing a political shift within Sarawak.

The 11 new seats which were created were Gedong, Kabong, Tellian, Stakan, Bukit Goram, Murum, Mulu, Samalaju, Bukit Semuja, Serembu, and Batu Kitang.

PBB which was supposed to get five to contest, claimed the first five seats while PRS successfully claimed Murum and Samalaju. SUPP was only given one namely Batu Kitang and PDP, got none.

In the 2016 Sarawak Election, candidates in Teras and UPP were fielded as direct BN candidates. The candidates from Teras were Mawan (Pakan), Paulus Palu Gumbang (Batu Danau), Datuk Rosey Yunus (Bekenu), while the five from UPP were Wong (Bawang Assan), Dr Jerip (Mambong), Ranum Mina (Opar), Datuk Tiong Thai King (Dudong) and Jonichal Rayong (Engkilili).

Apart from the Sarawak BN-friendly eight, the candidates for the rest of the unclaimed new seats namely Mulu, Bukit Semuja, and Serembu were all fielded as BN direct candidates.

PBB held 35 seats before the 2016 Sarawak Election. During the election, it contested in 40 constituencies with the additional five being newly created seats.

After the election, it accepted three Teras State lawmakers into its fold. In addition, it also took in the elected representatives Datuk Gerawat Jala (Mulu), John Ilus (Bukit Semuja) and Serembu (Miro Simuh) of the three ‘unclaimed’ seats.

With the three Teras seats of Batu Danau, Pakan and Bekenu, as well as the three unclaimed new seats of Mulu, Bukit Semuja and Serembu, PBB after the 2016 Sarawak Election held a total of 46 seats.

In 2020, Dr Jerip left PSB to join PBB, upping PBB’s total of seats in DUN to 47.

Following Nanta’s announcement that PBB is contesting in 47 seats, it can be concluded that SUPP will contest in 19 seats, instead of 20.

For PDP, which traditionally has been allocated the eight seats of Marudi, Meluan, Tasik Biru, Pakan, Batu Danau, Bekenu, Ba’kelalan and Krian, the party is expected to contest in five seats, after losing three to PBB. These five seats are Marudi, Meluan, Tasik Biru, Ba’kelalan and Krian.

Krian incumbent Datuk Ali Biju, though a strongman in the area, is a member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). The right to contest in this seat among GPS component parties remains in dispute at this stage.

In Ba’kelalan, PDP will face off against incumbent Baru Bian and it is expected this will be an uphill task for the party.

Meanwhile, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) was able to secure the two new seats created in 2016 re-delineation exercise which it was given to contest. It seat allocation thus increased from nine seats in 2011 to 11 seats in the 2016 election. The party was able to pull off victories in all the 11 seats entrusted to the party. It is thus expected to continue to defend all 11 seats in upcoming election.

The expected number of seats contested by component parties of GPS in 12th Sarawak Election:

Party Number of seats to contest
PBB 47
SUPP 19
PRS 11
PDP 5
Total 82

 

— DayakDaily