Tuesday, March 19

DAP’s squabbles lighten SUPP’s troubles


Political pundits in the country are having a ball with the 13th General Elections parked just round the corner that seems to move a little further every time words had it that we are about to round it.

Nobody except Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak knows when that day of political reckoning will come but with his constant stonewalling on the date I am beginning to doubt if even he is sure when the elections would be held.

All this waiting is giving time for more intrigues to surface providing fodder for political analysts to come up with more conjectures, speculations and rumours.

In Sarawak the general consensus is that the trend set in past elections remains the same with Barisan Nasional (BN) clear favourites in rural seats and facing an uphill battle in urban Chinese majority constituencies.

This paints a rather bleak picture for Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) which shoulders the unenviable task of holding the fort for BN in urban seats.

Of the six constituencies they are allocated for the polls five, Kuching, Stampin, Sibu, Miri and Sarikei, fall in this category.

Only Serian with a majority of Bidayuh voters is considered safe for SUPP.

SUPP has always been considered a Chinese based urban party and it maintained that position in the last Parliamentary election, when it won five of the six seats it contested in, only losing Kuching to DAP.

However, that win by DAP through its state secretary- general Chong Chien Jen signalled the takeover of the urban seats by the opposition.

The situation was compounded when DAP state chairman Wong Ho Leng won the Sibu election following the death the incumbent MP Datuk Robert Lau.

These triumphs have emboldened DAP and now it trumpets that it would wipe out SUPP in the urban seats in the coming elections.

Based on the results of the 2011 state election, DAP is not building castle in the air in declaring this intention.

DAP entered Sarawak in 1979 and it took the party more than four decades before it could displace SUPP as the political powerhouse in urban areas when in the 2011 state election the party won 11 out of the 13 Chinese majority seats.

Ironically DAP’s success in the last state election could give SUPP a glimmer of hope in the next Parliamentary election because like in all political parties, success means the beginning of internal power struggle.

It has not been smooth sailing for DAP for some years now but it has been able to contain the dissent within its rank and kept a façade of unity until recently.

Cracks on DAP’s wall have been getting wider all the time until they culminated into an open rebellion by a faction in its Miri branch over the party’s choice of candidate for Miri recently.

DAP’s state leaders reacted by sacking six of its members in Miri and this was followed by a call by its founding member Chong Siew Chiang for the sacking of   Piasau chairman Fong Pack Teck, who is also the Piasau state assemblyman, for taking part in the protest.  These measures were taken to maintain organisational discipline within the party but with election so near this high handed reaction could cost DAP dearly in the coming polls.

The state DAP has found out that dealing with internal dispute is harder than fighting enemies from outside.

A clear sign that DAP might have second thoughts about further action on the protest by its members over the choice of its candidate for Miri is that there has been no follow through to the call for Fong’s sacking.

Although SUPP members have judiciously kept quiet over the internal squabbles of DAP, they must be somewhat relieved that the opposition too are in the same boat as they have been for some time.

The situation in Miri is now brighter for SUPP nominated candidate Datuk Sebastian Ting.

With the crisis gripping DAP coupled with Ting’s popularity on the ground I would place my money on SUPP holding on to Miri currently being held by its president Datuk Seri Peter Chin.

DAP might have the upper hand in its tussle with SUPP in the urban seats but its success could have planted the seeds of its failure.

The party has thrived on the unity of its members but now the inevitable jostling for seats among its higher echelons has shaken this foundation.

Its saving grace is that SUPP is itself in disarray at the moment.

The fight between SUPP and DAP for the urban seats in Sarawak could hinge on how well the parties mend their rifts and unite their members.