Sibu By-Election: BN's Campaign Not as Innovative as PR's

by Al-Jafree Md Yusop (Malaysian Digest)
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) strategic director Tian Chua during his appearance as a guest speaker for the Teh Tarik Session held at Killiney Sooka Sentral last Thursday said that the voting trend in the recent Sibu by-election illustrates an urban swing among voters in the Sarawak constituency.
“I won’t call the voting trend in Sibu as a Chinese swing. It was more of an urban swing,” said the Batu MP.
Tian Chua, during his talk entitled Where To After Sibu, also acknowledged the apparent fact that PKR-Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is significantly better received in urban areas.
“We see that there’s a strong tendency for urban folks to support PR while the rural folks tend to support BN . We (PKR-PR) cannot rely entirely on the urban areas. We have to build relationships with the locals way before the by-elections to avoid embarrassing situations (where politicians offhandedly makes hasty efforts to visit constituencies during election period),” he said.
According to Tian , in the old days they can isolate the different races and ethnic groups but things have changed. He added that BN didn’t have the advantage they had in the peninsular seeing as it didn’t have media control since the media there are controlled and owned by Sarawakian companies.
Writer Kee Thuan Chye in an opinion piece for Malaysian Digest wrote “Sibu is an urban area with a majority of Chinese voters – the message has gone out loud and clear. People are as mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.”
It’s also clear from the Sibu by-election experience that the people cannot be bought with money, at least not all the people. Najib Razak and his forces promised millions to the people of Sibu; and Robert Lau was not expected to lose because of the wealth and influence of his family that encompasses a substantial part of Sibu – but it all came to no avail.
The Rejang Park people did right by not falling for the ploy. They still came out and voted for DAP. This wasn’t because Rejang Park is considered a “black area” for BN but because they knew that the RM5 million should not have come only when there was a by-election and BN wanted to buy their votes. Kee also raised questions to “Why wasn’t the flood problem attended to long before?” and “Aren’t the people of Rejang Park not entitled to proper public services like good drainage (system)– at any time, not only when their votes were called for?”
On the other hand Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said in a press statement said new tactics employed by DAP to garner the support of voters cost the BN the Sibu parliamentary seat.
“This time we had a different sort of campaigning on the part of the opposition, and there were many outsiders coming in,” said the Sarawak chief minister .
Taib said the Sarawak BN would formulate a new campaign strategy for the next state election to mount a serious challenge and counter all the baseless allegations brought by the opposition against the state government. The next state election is due before May next year.
He also denied that the BN lost due to protest votes cast by the Sibu voters to show their displeasure with senior politicians in the state.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the BN election machinery was not as creative or energetic as the opposition’s, which resulted in the BN losing the by-election. Najib said the BN machinery still followed the old way of campaigning.
In the by-election, DAP’s Wong Hong Leng secured 18,845 votes to win the seat by a 398-vote majority, defeating Robert Lau Hui Yew of the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), who polled 18,447 votes, and independent candidate Narawi Haron, who only managed 232 votes and lost his deposit.