Political scientist breaks myths of Sarawak polls

KUCHING: Although there is a growing number of Chinese supporting the opposition in Sarawak, they are not alone as statistics showed that Chinese swing toward the opposition in the last state election was comparatively less than that in other communities.

Dr Bridget Welsh, an associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University did a comparison of the 2011 state election result with those of 2006 and was of the opinion that the movement is greatest in mixed constituencies, and significant movement occurred across the ethnic communities, even the Malays.

Welsh observed that 2011 polls show an impressive increase in voter turnout.

The greatest turnout increase was among the Malays followed by increased participation of Chinese and Iban voters.

The average turnout increase from 2006 for the Malays was 9 per cent, followed by Chinese and Ibans both at 8.7 per cent, Bidayuh at 7.1 per cent, Orang Ulu 5.6 per cent and mixed at 5.7 per cent.

The average opposition gains in percentage share of majority of voters who voted compared to 2006 was mixed groups at 24.8 per cent, followed by Orang Ulu 20.5 per cent, Malay 18.4 per cent, Bidayuh 17.9 per cent, Iban 14.2 per cent and Chinese 13.4 per cent.

“The share of movement of Orang Ulu-majority seats is large, a 20 per cent swing.

These numbers can be a bit deceiving in that the actual number of voters in Sarawak are small and 20 per cent can reflect a small number of voters in the small constituencies, yet nevertheless, the swing is significant.” Welsh remarked.

Welsh said that these seats did not move into opposition as in many constituencies, the opposition needed more than a 40 per cent change to win.

Welsh also observed that the greatest gains of the opposition was actually in semi rural areas which stood at almost 20 per cent followed by rural of 15 per cent and urban area at 13 per cent.

She said the myth that opposition support was only in the urban areas needed to be shattered.

She said the most significant gains in terms of seats were in the semi-rural areas, for example, Batu Kawah, Dudong and Piasau. “The close fight in Senadin is also illustrative.”

Welsh also observed the higher mobilisation of younger voters, an estimated 16 per cent increase in turnout compared to older voters at 3.5 per cent. The opposition gains from the younger voters is 26 per cent which is a significant increase.

Welsh found out from interviewing younger voters that these youngsters convinced their parents (and grandparents) to change support.

Welsh, who was in Sarawak observing the state election, however, said the analysis was drawn from the newspaper publication of results thus should be seen as indicators of trends rather than absolutes.

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