The votes speak in many ways. The surface reading is BN retain 2/3 majority. But the slide in majority votes -by 8%(from 63% >55%0) cannot be a sustainable trend. Another 8%, or an acceleration of it will spell the end of BN government-forgetting about the 2/3 majority! The issue is not so much the %-but where the % is located, apart from its trends. If another 8% occur in the interior of Sarawak vast areas of the Sarawakian electorate would have de-anchored from the BN mother ship! In this sense the win in Ba Kelalan and Krian bode well for the PKR and Pakatan as they are in the solid interior constituencies. If the winning formula is replicable across the interior then the BN would have cause for shivering!
What will happen in Sarawak could follow 2 possible directions: Opposition could expand the change constituencies from the urban to its peripheries till it achieves sufficient seats to govern, or it can have a rural uprising which combine with the existing urban force to present a ruling majority. The 1st route has perhaps been the assumed position among urban inspired parties like DAP. It is however up against the huge rural weightage that has been used against the urban parties. So the ruling BN parties are basically urban led rural based parties. Under such a condition the urban based Opposition/alternative parties will have to win almost 60% of the popular votes to really get the number to govern.
Another route is provided by the Penisualr example where the rural uprising is exemplified by PAS. The success of PAS forced the ruling parties to escape to the semi-rural semi-urban mixed seats which has thus far expanded under the last 2 constituencies -re-delineations. Should this `middle grounds’ get squeezed further then BN’s brand of politics would be running up a geographical dead-end! As it is the direction of politics in West Malaysia is going in this direction-which is the motivation force behind the BN top leaders making numerous and regular forays to the Eastern states. Should Pakatan extend its success of a rural uprising in Penisular to East Malaysia it would have paid more attention the Sabah and Sarawak. As it is it is not wrong to say that Pakatan is slower than BN to address the East-West divide as it is still trying to push its luck by expanding its West Malaysia’s success.
There are 2 resistances to the above strategy: 1stly the West Malaysia’s political space for expansion for Pakatan is running into a stalemate as BN is fighting to retain its strongholds in its fortresses in the south and the south-east. Then the Eastern states have been given more seats than its population(another level of rural weightage)-thus making it more difficult for the Pakatan to try to go it alone in the West -as some of them may entertain the idea that their success in the West would have inspired some Sarawakian ruling parties to hop over.
Such a thinking run into 2 problems: politically should Pakatan welcome these parties which it previously condemn? Secondly should the Eastern parties hold the balance of power-as it is doing now, they have more reason to hold on to their priviledge position which it enjoys now in BN than becoming one of the junior parties/late members in Pakatan.
So the strategy to squeeze out the ruling parties from both ends of the social-geographical divides may be inevitable for Pakatan or any opposition forces in Malaysia. It is in this juncture that the political parties need to look beyond local concerns and adopt a state-wide or national outlook if it truly wish to achieve a winning combination. Pakatan need to design something different from the urban centric development policies that impoverished the rural/interior of Sarawak. Currently there is an `oil curse’ arguement’ which run counter to the `relative advantage’ argument in economic development. The latter says that a society should just focus on what it purportedly can do better and use the income from the development to fund the rest of the economy. Consequences from that for Sarawak is: the oil and logging incomes (Sarawak’s purported economic advantages) lead to a few ruling and economic elites propping up themselves-who then use their riches to import whatever needed by the locals -who suffer from depleted employment opportunities and high prices of imported basic needs. There is little incentives for the elites to try to build up local manufactures which can provide employment to the locals besides helping the local avoid expensive imports.What start of as an innocuous `relative advantage’ prescription morph into a monstrousity that is precisely the `oil curse’ criticism.
Another direction of growth can perhaps look at a more natural way of development where food production and basic needs manufactures are locally based -as developed and other `developing’ countries are doing anyway. Scaling back production for global markets will help conserve non-renewable natural resources as well as creating local jobs. Substitute some imports will help local economy from imported inflation eg food prices. This will also help conserving local cultures eg in food and dressing. In practical terms this may mean import machinery to help local production rather than importing the finished products, and exporting values-added manufactured products eg furnitures than raw material like timber. After years of unlimited resource extractions it may be time to scale back such wanton exploitation before the non-renewable resources reach their exhaustion. It could be a neccesary correctives to the resource extraction economy which only allow supposedly shared resources to benefit a few self-appointed elites and not the entire membership of the economy! This re-orientation will help build local self-confidence and in the long run, help build local capacities and employment creations. The creation of this new class of local entrepreneurs may restore some sense of social economic justice to the resource-extraction-export model which only benefit a few political and economic elites who have little interests to reinvest their wealth into the local economy/environment/people.