Sarawak PKR should leave Jepak polls alone to avoid severing good ties among unity gov’t partners

PKR should not contest the Jepak by-election in Sarawak scheduled for Nov 4. The signals from the Sarawak chapter of PKR with regard to its participation has been ambiguous thus far.

Some voices say the party should contest for reason of maintaining a check and balance on Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), the state’s ruling coalition.

Though GPS is a vital partner in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government at the federal level, Pakatan Harapan (PH) is not a constituent in the ruling state coalition steered by GPS.

If, however, PH through Sarawak PKR fields a candidate to contest the Jepak state seat, it will come up against Parti Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) which has held the seat for decades.

PBB is the anchor party in GPS. Hence a decision by PKR to contest will affect ties between components of the unity government at the federal level. This is a possibility that should be avoided.

Ties between components of the unity government are intricate. It must be noted that the head of GPS Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg has assured that GPS would remain with the unity government until the next general election in 2027.

Pic credit: Borneo Post

It would have been unwise of him to go beyond that time frame in his assurance. Unsaid in the whole equation is the factor that will influence GPS’s calculations.

This is whether PH which groups PKR, DAP and Amanah can stay ahead of rivals Perikatan Nasional (PN) which is the partnership among PAS, Bersatu and Gerakan in the tally of parliamentary seats on the Peninsula.

The margin – PH’s 82 seats to PN’s 74 – at the last general election (GE15) was narrow enough to induce uncertainty among parties in Sarawak and Sabah as to which coalition to support on the Peninsula.

The King’s advice that a unity government spearheaded by Anwar would be in the best interests of the country swung the parties in Sarawak and Sabah to support the idea.

Since its formation on Nov 24 last year, doubts about the unity government’s stability have often been raised by PN. Although the doubts are troubling, they have not caused instability.

A decision by Sarawak PKR to contest the Jepak polls would give cause to PN to re-ignite doubts about the stability of the partnership between GPS and PH at the federal level.

This would be foolhardy. – Oct 4, 2023


Terence Netto is a journalist with 50 years in an occupation that demands resistance to fleeting impressions.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Pic credit: Bernama

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