Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional politicians will be training their sights on different quarries as they complete the final 36 hours of campaigning in the Sibu by-election.
The strategies of both coalitions are decidedly different, revealing the differences in their perceptions of their chances at the ballot box.
SUPP, which fielded lawyer Robert Lau Hui Yew, is expected to give its undivided attention to the Chinese community in the bid to retain the seat, held by the late Robert Lau Hoi Chiew for five terms.
SUPP Sibu information chief Daniel Ngieng admitted that they have always had a problem with that community’s votes, but believes their chances lie with the status quo.
“We are hoping to maintain the results from the 2008 general election,” he told reporters at the party’s daily press conference earlier today.
In the 2008 outing , Robert Lau senior won roughly 37 percent Chinese support, but trounced DAP’s Wong Ho Leng elsewhere, earning over 70 percent of the Iban votes and a strong 80 percent margin from the Melanaus/Malays.
Looking at the events that BN leaders have planned, it appears that SUPP will focus on the town areas where the Chinese are concentrated, while coalition partners PBB and federal ministers will reach out to the rural areas where the Ibans and Melanaus are mostly based.
High Chinese turnout crucial
The Pakatan on the other hand is not taking any chances in this contest, going all out to cover every possible area, leaving no stone unturned.
The opposition front is banking on a solid rise in support for Wong from all sectors this time around, with particular attention on the Iban voting base.
DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang said at their daily press conference that they are still trailing 49 to 51 points behind SUPP, but expects the odds to at least even out by polling day.
“If we can increase our Chinese support to 80 percent, and get a 10 percent increase from both the Iban and Melanau voters, I think we can win it,” he said.
They will, however, need a high turnout of voters, particularly from the Chinese, if they hope to realise Lim’s projection.
A full Chinese turnout at the polls translates to a predicted 29,195 votes for Wong at 80 percent, which is more than half the constituency’s total votes. Such a result therefore guarantees Wong the seat.
But that is unlikely to happen, judging from the 2008 election turnout of 67.77 per cent in Sibu.
The Melanau areas are also difficult for DAP as the community is well known for supporting its own, and that includes Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Resisting BN’s golden shower
This means the DAP has to pin its hopes on getting Iban support.
Therefore, even while the Pakatan is doing all it can to squeeze out as many votes from the Melanau areas as possible, it is aiming squarely at the native votes as evident in the opposition coalition’s campaign blitz at Iban longhouses over the last two days.
Their success will depend on how effectively they can manage changing the decade-old native mind-set of accepting the status quo and succumbing to the lure of BN’s extravagant shower of goodies.
Sibu – the final blitz begins