Will PBK make inroads by fielding Dayak candidates?

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By John Isaac

FIELDING Dayaks as candidates is not good enough a tactic for local opposition party Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) to make inroads in the rural constituencies in Sarawak, where socio-economic concerns trump ideological aspirations.

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said although the party has announced that it would field many Dayaks in the next state election, mostly in the rural Dayak-majority seats, it does not give them a higher chance to win.

“Anyone who wishes to win in the rural areas must prove they are capable of bringing more infrastructure projects that can provide social and economic advantages. PBK is not a proven party,” he told FMT.

“Without backing by the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) ruling coalition, the party is likely to end up only splitting votes.”

Oh was commenting on PBK’s announcement that it would field 51 Dayak candidates in the next state polls to canvas for the Dayak community’s support.

However, former academic Azmi Hassan said PBK had been focusing on the Dayaks since the party was formed in 2013 and its strategy might just work this time around.

“It will be no surprise if they can win a few seats from the GPS as the Dayaks have started to shift their support towards opposition parties in the 14th general election in 2018,” he said.

“The former Barisan Nasional was losing its grip on Dayak voters, that was the reason why it lost six Dayak-majority seats in GE14. We expect such a trend to continue in the state polls.”

The six seats were Selangau, Lubok Antu, Julau, Saratok, Puncak Borneo and Mas Gading, where four were won by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the other two by independent candidates.

Azmi said the Dayaks comprised 40% of Sarawak’s voters in the state and have the power to change the political scenario in the state.