KUCHING, Dec 6 — Nomination day for the 12th Sarawak state election finally begins today after which campaigning for the state election will officially begin.
Campaigning will go on for 12 days before Sarawakians go to vote on December 18th.
The nomination process at 82 candidate nomination centres (PPC) throughout the state starts at 9am today.
Unlike previous state elections, the 12th edition will be held in an entirely different atmosphere following the Covid-19 pandemic.
So far, only Sarawak and Kelantan are still in Phase Three of the National Recovery Plan, while all other states have moved to Phase Four.
With Covid-19 risk still high, the Election Commission (EC), in announcing the standard operating procedures (SOP), had said that only candidates, proposers and a supporter of the candidate or any two of them are allowed to enter the PPC to submit candidate nomination papers.
Supporters of political parties represented by candidates are not allowed to enter, and any gathering and procession of supporters are not allowed anywhere during nomination day.
Candidates and political parties have been given 12 days to campaign before the voting date on December 18 while preliminary voting is set for December 14.
Until yesterday, 1,268 nomination forms had been sold.
According to the EC, there are a total of 1,252,014 eligible voters comprising 1,228,858 ordinary voters, 12,585 military personnel and spouses; 10,458 policemen and spouses and 113 Absentee Voters (PTH) Overseas.
The total number of polling centres is 1,951 with 3,666 polling stations/channels and a total of 46,565 individuals appointed to handle the Sarawak state election.
For the campaign period, the EC in its latest SOP banned cross-state travel for the purpose of campaigning during the period except for the top five leaders of political parties contesting cross-state.
Through the SOP, the names of the party's top leaders must be submitted to the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), subject to the SOP in force and limited to activities approved in the enterSarawak application.
However, ceramahs will be allowed in closed places such as halls and community halls in 64 of the 82 DUNs involved due to the lack of proper internet connectivity in these areas.
All eyes are on Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) who is expected to retain its win similar to the 2016 election when the coalition was part of Barisan Nasional (BN).
GPS chairman Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg had announced that 24 new faces would be among the 82 candidates to be fielded by the coalition.
In the 2016 state election, GPS — at that time part of the BN coalition together with Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) — won 72 seats without much fight.
Pakatan Harapan meanwhile announced it will contest 51 seats as it attempts to win seats in cities like Kuching, Bintulu and Miri.
Until yesterday, PKR announced candidates in 28 seats, DAP in 26 and Amanah contesting nine.
The only other peninsular-based party, PAS — now part of the Perikatan Nasional coalition —also announced it will field its sole candidate at the Beting Maro state constituency despite the coalition chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin having said that it would support GPS.
The Islamic party's deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said PAS’ Syura council had decided to field its Sarawak PAS secretary Mohammad Arifiriazul Paijo to contest in Beting Maro.
Local opposition party Parti Sarawak Bersatu meanwhile announced it will contest 70 seats with plenty of experienced leaders in Chinese and Dayak seats.
Talks between PSB and other oppositions had apparently broken down and PSB is set to go it alone.