Friday, May 14, 2010

PRK Sibu : Tide still not flowing BN's way

SIBU: After five days of campaigning, the Barisan Nasional still finds itself in a fluid position – there are no clear indications that the tide is flowing in its favour.

Despite expressing confidence of retaining the seat, many BN campaigners are worried that the people have not been won over. They say the next two days will determine whether the voters will tilt towards the BN.

Federal leaders have been coming in and going out of the flourishing port town, handing out goodies particularly to the Chinese who comprise 67% of the 54,600-odd voters. But the ruling party appears to be trailing its opponent in the battle to capture the hearts and minds of the people.

Traditionally, the Chinese in Sibu are supporters of BN but since the 1990s, their support has been dwindling while their list of demands and grievances has been growing longer.

The BN government – state and federal – is in a fix: if it fulfils their demands, the other races might feel slighted.

But the Chinese are pressing ahead with their demands, especially on land matters, and this is where the BN is vulnerable. Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has also come under heavy fire for his “unhealthy” practices.

For the business community, land is a big problem. This mainly concerns the lease, which ranges from 30 years to 60 years. Many owners have complained that the premium for renewal is too high, with some estimating it at between RM20,000 and RM30,000.

Then there is Taib whom many feel is becoming a hindrance to business. There are loud noises in the business circle that the chief minister is practising cronyism and nepotism, which they say is hampering growth.

Going into overdrive

One sign that BN's influence is eroding is the size of the crowd: DAP ceramah invariably pulled in bigger crowds than BN's.

However, this is not to say that the BN has lost the support of the Chinese. Rather, the ruling party can take some consolation in the knowledge that the Chinese community still relies on the BN government for their business to thrive.

If the BN's relationship with the Chinese is shaky, its ties with the Malays and Bumiputera (mainly Dayak and Iban) is far from strong. The Malays comprise some 10% of the voters while Bumiputera make up the remainder (22%). Both communities feel they have been left out of the mainstream of development. Thus, BN cannot be sure it can lock up the Malay and Bumiputera vote bank.

As the BN tries hard to steady itself, the DAP seems to be having a smooth time. Its leaders are getting good reception on the stump.

The DAP has a “fixed deposit” of 30% of the Chinese voters who have been loyal to the party. It only needs to continue working on the fence-sitters, who comprise some 20%, to stay ahead of the BN.

With only two days left, DAP's Wong Ho Leng is going into overdrive to try and wrest the prized trophy from BN's Robert Lau Hui Yew.

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