KUCHING (April 21, 2013): Saratok tops the list of super hot seats in Sarawak as the State Barisan Nasional is fending off relentless onslaughts by the Opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in the parliamentary election on May 5.
PR is aiming to win the maximum 13 seats, with most of these would come from the urban constituencies.
Up for grabs are 31 parliamentary seats. Before the dissolution of parliament on April 3, BN has 29 while the Opposition (DAP) has two seats.
The other hotly contested seats are Stampin, Sarikei, Baram, Sibu, Lanang, Mas Gading and Bandar Kuching.
Saratok becomes a hot seat after Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) president Tan Sri William Mawan was named as the SPDP-BN candidate, replacing incumbent and caretaker Deputy Transport Minister Jelaing Mersat in the last minute.
Over 300 SPDP members in Saratok, including some from the supreme council, resigned a day after Mawan was named as the candidate on April 16.
Mawan will be facing Sarawak PKR vice chairman and Krian State Assemblyman Ali Biju, who in the April 16, 2011 state election, convincingly defeated SPDP deputy president Datuk Peter Nyarok.
The third candidate is former State Election director Datuk Abang Roselie Abang Paleng, who stands as an Independent.
Sararok has 27,096 eligible voters comprising 57 % Dayaks, 36 % Malays/Melanaus and 7 % Chinese.
Another super hot seat is Stampin, where caretaker Deputy Works Minister Datuk Yong Khoon Seng is fighting an electoral battle of his life, against a 34-year aerospace engineer Julian Tan Kok Peng of the DAP.
The third candidate, Lina Soo,54, of State Reform Party (Star), is a mere bystander in the battle.
The DAP wants to retire Yong, 73, after he reneged on his pledge not to contest anymore.
The election on May 5 could well be Yong's last.
The three state seats under Stampin – Batu Lintang, Kota Sentosa and Batu Kawa – were won by PR in the last state election. The total number of votes garnered by the Opposition from these three seats was 33,268 compared to 19,520 obtained by SUPP.
Stampin has 84,273 eligible voters, the highest in Sarawak. They comprise 76 % Chinese, 12 % Dayaks, 11 % Malays/Melanaus and 1 % others.
Sarikei is a seat to watch. Incumbent Ding Kuong Hiing, 56, won the seat after beating his nearest challenger, Dr Wong Hua Seh of the DAP, by a mere 51 votes, in a five-cornered fight.
This time around, Ding's sole challenge is Andrew Wong Ling Biu of the DAP. Wong is a former political assistant to Datuk David Teng Lung Chi, SUPP's present treasurer-general.
A serious internal squabble among the SUPP members in Sarikei could result in the party and BN to lose the seat to the Opposition. Members of the rival faction are reported to be throwing their support to the DAP.
Moreover, the two state seats of Repok and Bintangor under Sarikei were won by the DAP in the 2011 state election.
Sarikei has 36,324 eligible voters comprising 70 % Chinese, 26 % Dayaks and 4% Malays/Melanaus.
There are too many controversial issues that make Baram a super hot seat.
The fight for Baram is between Anyi Ngau of SPDP-BN, lawyer and Christian preacher Roland Engan of PKR and businessman Patrick Sibat Sujang, an Independent.
For years, Dayak-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been fighting hard against issuing of provisional leases to plantation companies on lands the natives claimed they have customary rights over.
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of lands have been leased to plantation companies over the years.
The natives, with the help of the NGOs, have also been opposing the issuing of licences to log timber from tropical rainforests in middle and upper Baram.
The state's proposal to build a RM4 billion dam in Baram is also being vigorously opposed by the natives. Some 20,000 natives will have to be resettled elsewhere once the construction work on the dam begins.
Baram has 29,024 eligible voters comprising 83% Dayaks, 11% Chinese and 6% Malays/Melanaus.
Sibu is another seat to watch. It has always been a traditional seat of SUPP until the party lost it to the DAP in a by-election on May 16, 2010, caused by the death of SUPP vice chairman Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew.
Sarawak DAP chairman Wong Ho Leng edged Robert Lau Hui Yew of SUPP-BN by only 398 votes.
Wong is not defending the seat, but instead his personal assistant Oscar Ling Chai Yew, 36, is contesting.
SUPP, on the other hand, is fielding tycoon Lau Lee Ming, 56, to reclaim Sibu from the DAP.
A government pensioner Narawi Haron is contesting as an Independent candidate.
Nangka and Bawang Assan, two of the state seats under the Sibu parliamentary constituency are held by BN and while the third, Pelawan, is held by the DAP.
Sibu has 64,381 registered voters comprising 67% Chinese, 15% Dayaks and 18 % Malays/Melanaus.
Lanang is an interesting super hot seat to watch. SUPP-BN is letting Sibu Municipal Council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King, 67, to defend the seat which he has won for many terms.
Tiong, coming from one of the richest families in Malaysia, is facing DAP Sibu Women chief Alice Lau Kiong Yieng, 32, a pin-sized daughter of another tycoon, who happens to be a senior member of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), a component party of the BN.
Lanang consists of the two state seats of Bukit Assek and Dudong, both won by the DAP in the April 16, 2011 state election.
Lanang has 56,830 registered voters comprising 76% Chinese, 19% Dayaks and 5% Malays/Melanaus.
National Service Training Council chairman Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe's presence is making Mas Gading a super hot seat. He was denied by the BN leadership to be a direct BN candidate so he could defend the seat, which he won three terms.
Though he is contesting as an Independent candidate, political observers believe that his chance of retaining the seat, which he won in 1999 on Sarawak National Party (SNAP) ticket, is good.
His main challenger will be Anthony Nogeh Gumbek, a former senior government officer, of SPDP-BN.
The other candidates in Mas Gading are political novice Mordi Bimol of the DAP and battle-hardened Patrick Anek Uren of Star.
Mas Gading has 25,493 registered voters comprising 74% Dayaks, 21% Chinese and 5% Malays/Melanaus.
The SUPP-BN is making all efforts to capture Bandar Kuching by fielding SUPP Youth chief Tan Kai against Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen.
Though it is quite an uphill task for SUPP-BN to win in this predominantly Chinese majority seat, they are not about to surrender.
In the 2008 parliamentary election, Chong, the Kota Sentosa State Assemblyman, beat Alan Sim, then SUPP Youth chief, and in 2004, he defeated Datuk Wee Kok Tiong, a son of the Tan Sri Wee Boon Ping, a famous Sarawak tycoon, in Bandar Kuching.
It is, therefore, natural for SUPP-BN to win in Bandar Kuching, being the State Capital of Sarawak and the pride of all Sarawakians.
The two state constituencies – Pending and Padungan – are currently held by the DAP.
Bandar Kuching has 53,374 registered voters comprising 91% Chinese, 5% Malays/Melanaus and 3% Dayaks.