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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sarawak: Same 'ol for another term...

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Walski is on a working holiday (so to speak), and so he couldn’t follow the Sarawak state election as it transpired.

But the votes have been counted, and the winner has been declared – it looks like Barisan Nasional has managed to retain the Sarawak state government for another, and keep their 2/3 majority in the process.

Swiftly, Taib Mahmud was sworn in as the Chief Minister (via The Malaysian Insider) for the newly minted state government. How exactly this augurs well for the promised transition to new leadership is anybody’s guess. In not so many words, Taib has already said that he won’t be “pressured by the opposition” to set a timetable. This despite the Prime Minister’s “promise” that Taib will step down. The Deputy Prime Minister, however, seems to be leaning more towards Taib’s side.

More on this later, but for now, let’s take a short stroll down memory lane.

Many years ago, Taib Mahmud made a promise to the people of Sarawak that he would retire in 5 years. That was back in 1995. Now the school mathematics syllabus has changed a lot since the time Walski was studying, but he’s pretty sure that 1995 + 5 comes nowhere to being equal to 2011.

It’s now become apparent (16 years later), that when Taib said what he said, we took it for granted that the Chief Minister was using simple arithmetic when he made that promise.

After applying simple first-order algebra to Taib’s statement, Walski has now managed to derive that very unmentioned formula:

(x + y)/i =

where x = the year the statement was made, y = the number of years promised, and i = the Taib integrity factor. As it turns out, this is a fairly universal formula that can be applied anytime Taib makes a promise to step down.

And as anyone who’s studied algebra can tell you, the i-factor would need to be a very small number approaching zero.   
(elusive transition, the result summary, and more, in the full post)

But math humor aside, when Taib will actually step down is anybody’s guess. The reality, however, is that in order to not look like liars – and fools – the BN leadership would have to fulfill the transition promise made during the election run-up cabinet scramble tour.

What promise, you ask?

Najib: there will be a transition in the Sarawak leadership, and that Chief Minister Taib Mahmud will step down after the election, as "promised"

DPM Muhyiddin: the "agreed" transition plan will be implemented "in due course" after BN "retains its 2/3 majority"

Taib: one more term (refer to formula to derive how this actually translates to when
(info source: The Malaysian Insider)

So, Walski reckons that sometime during this new term, there will be a transition of power to a new yet-to-be identified leader, who’s apparently been groomed by Taib for the last two decades (via The Borneo Post). Who is this mysterious successor? Taib won’t tell, and no one seems to know either. Walski’s guess is that neither does the BN leadership.

If politics is akin to magic tricks using smoke and mirrors, there is probably no better example than this.

But the people of Sarawak have chosen, and it is assumed that they know better than Walski does. At the same time, Malaysians are notorious for being gullible, so whether or not they have made the right choice is entirely up to you. Walski, of course, has his opinion, but who is he to say whether he’s right or wrong?

Be that as it may, BN’s victory, to some, is a rather jaded one. Yes, they managed to retain their 2/3 majority, but didn’t fare as well as compared to the last state election. They managed to secure 55 state seats (versus 62 the last time around). DAP secured 12 seats, doubling their representation in the state legislative body. PKR won 3 seats, while an Independent candidate won 1. It was a total washout for PAS, however. Similarly, SUPP got a big, fat zilch.

Election results graphic taken from The Malaysian Insider, hosting by Photobucketimage taken from The Malaysian Insider

The most telling statistic, however, is the popular vote. BN only garnered 55% of the popular vote, compared to 63% previously. Analysts have also opined that overall, the result doesn’t augur well for Barisan, and that the outcome of the state elections indicates that Pakatan will have a stronger chance to obtain more parliamentary seats in the yet-to-be-announced 13th General Elections.

Current analytical speculation is that based on Sarawak’s showing, Prime Minister Najib will not call for snap elections so soon. The Hornbill state has traditionally been BN’s parliamentary seat fixed deposit, and the promise of power transition will be a big factor to weigh when deciding the timing for GE13.

Walski does wonder though, whether Taib will play ball, or will he play hardball. Indications are, though, that it will probably be the latter, based on the fact that Taib got sworn in as Chief Minister faster than you can say recount, and the contradictory messages between state and federal BN.

Again, what’s done is done, and our Sarawakian brothers and sisters have made their decision, which should be respected – both at the overall state level, as well as in the individual constituencies. A political Tsunami the Sarawak state election definitely wasn’t, but as PKR state leader Baru Bian stated, for Pakatan the result was an excellent start to a new beginning.