The guessing games begins

In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?

– Barack Obama, 44th President of USA

A routine Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) special closed-door meeting over the weekend has somewhat intensified speculation that the state election will be called soon.

The guessing game on the date has begun. Political analysts and ‘coffee shop politicians’ have already gotten down to predicting possible dates.

Although the current term of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly expires only in June next year, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is likely to take the goings-on at the national political scene as an excellent opportunity to call for the 12th state election.

Seasoned politician that he is, Abang Johari was evasive about the election date during the launch of his Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) northern zone in Limbang early this year, only giving a hint that the state polls might be called earlier than the expiry of the current term of the State Legislative Assembly.

“I don’t know when the drum will be sounded, but the time for the Maghrib prayer has come, and we’re only waiting for the sound of the drum,” he said.

And last month, at a PBB supreme council meeting, Abang Johari, who is the party president, instructed YBs to prepare for election, asking them to go down to the grassroots and telling them tongue-in-cheek, “Just like any sports, you need to go for training before you compete”.

Sarawak last held its election on May 7, 2016 for the 82 state assembly seats. At that time, Barisan Nasional (now GPS) won 72 out of the 82 seats with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) taking the rest.

The four former state BN component parties of PBB, PRS, SUPP and PDP formed GPS soon after the 14th general election in 2018 following the national BN’s ignominious defeat to PH.

Now, on the election date, many predict it to be anywhere between September and November, while observers predict that the state election will be timed with the dissolution of Parliament to fulfil the ‘one nation, one election’ concept.

Sarawak is the only state which does not hold simultaneous state elections with the rest of the country during parliamentary polls.

But this time around, Abang Johari might take advantage of the political uncertainties at the federal level to time the state election with the national election.

Then again, we’ll have to wait and see. If Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad & Co disrupts parliamentary proceedings this coming sitting with a no confidence motion against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyuddin Yassin, then there is a likelihood that Parliament will be dissolved and a snap election will ensue.

Then Abang Johari might see it fit to hold simultaneous polls which would reduce the cost of holding them, and limit all elections to a single season.

Simultaneous elections might not favour Sarawak opposition parties like DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara as they have a tougher task at hand, having to tackle the national polls too.

Assuming Muhyiddin decides not to have Parliament dissolved then Sarawak can concentrate on its state polls.

So, when do I think the polls will be held?  Before I give my take on the date, let’s look into Sarawak’s past 11 election dates.

Sarawak state elections (1969-2016):

•      1969 – May 10, 1969-July 4, 1970 (Sat)

•      1974 – August 24-September 14 (Sat)

•      1979 – September 15-22 (Sat)

•      1983 – December 28-29 (Wed)

•      1987 – April 15-16 (Wed)

•      1991 – September 27-28 (Fri)

•      1996 – September 7-8 (Sat)

•      2001 – September 27 (Thurs)

•      2006 – May 20 (Sat)

•      2011 – September 16 (Fri)

•      2016 – May 7 (Sat)

Five or rather six of the 11 elections were held in the month of September; except for the 1974 elections which stretched from August to September the other five elections were held in early or mid-September.

Looking at past election trends, the probability of the 12th state election being held in September looks high. I would think it could be on Saturday. Why? Six of the past polls were on Saturday, including the last one.

My hunch is that the polls will be in the first week of September. Could be on the fifth, a Saturday or sixth (Sunday).

The figure six plays an important role in Abang Johari’s political career. One, he is the representative for the sixth state seat, N6 Satok. Two, he was appointed as the sixth chief minister at age 66. Three, he joined politics at 26 in 1977. And his official car number is SG6.

Many think polls will be after Malaysia Day, September 16. Maybe, maybe not, but I will stick to the first week.

What’s your wager?