In pre-election blitz, PKR grooming candidates to know Sarawakians better

PKR volunteers posing outside a village settlement in Sarawak. — Picture courtesy of Nurul Izzah Anwar
PKR volunteers posing outside a village settlement in Sarawak. — Picture courtesy of Nurul Izzah Anwar

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 ― Hoping to cement its presence in Sarawak ahead of a state election that must be held by next year, PKR has begun executing an ambitious year-long campaign to groom and prepare new local candidates for contest.

Titled “Demi Sarawak” (For Sarawak), the initiative involves arming PKR’s election team in Sarawak with sufficient knowledge on poll management as well as identifying local issues and concerns that the opposition will address during the campaign period.

According to PKR’s elections co-director Nurul Izzah Anwar, her party will focus on 28 state seats in Sarawak for the polls.

PKR has also finalised its list of potential candidates, she confirmed, although the state’s opposition parties are still negotiating the seats.

“Our series of trainings, field based, were planned within the last six months and have commenced starting July 2015 until December this year.

“Most of our Muslim electioneering experts from Peninsular Malaysia have spent their Ramadan weekends camped in the rural Sarawak hinterland to offer support in lieu of the upcoming state elections,” PKR co-elections director Nurul Izzah told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.

The sole aim of “Demi Sarawak”, she explained, is to cement PKR’s presence in the hornbill state and reaffirm the party’s commitment to Sarawakians.

She said the campaign has a two-pronged approach: first to introduce PKR candidates' into a particular constituency, and secondly to identify and provide infrastructural support for these constituencies.

“Frequent meetings and visitation by local party leaders with rakyat are aiming towards identifying the local issues and concerns. These issues and concerns have been consistently raised to relevant authorities for rectification.

“Our party leaders are to be the front-liners to facilitate rakyat's issues and concerns,” she said.

“For Sarawak, we want to champion the ideals of the party to prove that it’s a truly Malaysian party.

“We have also been pushing a narrative to the Sarawak people, that Islam is against racism, that Islam supports a civil state.... and this idea has been well-accepted by our Sarawak leadership,” she said.

The campaign was officially launched by PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on July 22.

The next Sarawak state election must be called by August 20, 2016.

During the last statewide polls in 2011, DAP snapped up 12 of the 15 seats it contested while PKR won three of 49 seats, giving the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact a total of 15 seats in the 71-seat state assembly, more than double the six seats the opposition had won in previous state elections.

The pact's performance was considered a huge breakthrough for the opposition front in Sarawak, a state many have described as a Barisan Nasional fixed deposit.

But today, the opposition is faced with uncertainty.

The latest survey findings by Independent pollster Merdeka Center, disclosed yesterday, showed many Sarawakians approved of Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s performance so far, with as many as 74 per cent ― nearly three quarters ― saying the first-term chief minister has been doing a good job leading the state.

The survey results also showed 68 per cent expressing satisfaction with how Adenan was running the state Barisan Nasional government and the “feel good” factor he has brought.

Merdeka Center’s survey from April 10 to April 24 was conducted over the phone with 606 respondents above the age of 21, from a demographic cross section that represented the state’s makeup.

PAS, during its June 6 annual congress, announced it would end ties with DAP after its secular ally refused to agree to its bid to roll out hudud in Kelantan, among other ideological differences that have been simmering between the two for years.

PKR attempted to mediate between its two partners to ensure their fallout would not affect their state administration of Selangor and Penang and came up with the curious statement that the spirit of PR lives on although the opposition pact no longer functions formally.

But the future of PKR’s partnership with DAP in Sarawak now also looks to be in jeopardy.

DAP’s Sarawak chapter had previously said that it is withdrawing from talks with PKR over seat distribution for the state polls due to the latter party’s ambiguous stand on hudud.

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