KUCHING: Balingian constituency which has seen only former chief minister Taib Mahmud as their assemblyman since 2001 go to polls this morning to chose a new representative.
Taib, who resigned as CM on Feb 28, also vacated his state seat to take on the post of governor.
His incumbency is being defended by former Dalat district officer Yussibnosh Balo, 48. Rivalling him is PKR's Abdul Jalil Bujang, a 55-year-old businessman from Bintulu.
Barisan Nasional is fervently hoping for a big voter turnout today. The challenge among others is the wet weather which is predicted to continue today.
Election Commission chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said they were expecting a 80% turnout rate at the 21 polling stations which will begin operations at 8am today.
He said early voting involving 132 voters was held on March 25 at the Dewan Serbaguna Ibu Pejabat Polis Mukah.
He said the results will be announced "by 9pm at the latest".
It is a foregone conclusion here that BN will retain Balingian.
In the last state election Taib retained the Balingian state seat by a 5,154 vote majority in three cornered. The majority was a slight dip from the 2006 polls.
But the political scene in Sarawak has somewhat shifted since then with greater political awareness and an active opposition – DAP and PKR – making inroads in the urban, semi-urban and rural areas in the state.
Hence the urgency for BN and its lead-party in Sarawak, PBB, to assert their overwhelming hand.
According to political analyst Jeniri Amir, it is crucial for BN to have a good voter turnout today.
"First, this is a by-election. Normally, in by-elections, voters turnout are much lower than contests during state or general elections.
"If the turnout is low it may affect the winning majority. It is very important to have a voters' turnout of at least 75 percent," said Jeniri.
Jeniri, who was in Mukah and Balingian during the first week of campaigning which began on March 17, said BN was going all out in their campaign efforts.
"Adenan himself is based in Mukah for the moment. He has gone to several (Iban) longhouses (to campaign). BN is also using their election machinery to the fullest," he said alluding that efforts at every quarter were doubled and tripled this time round.
On Thursday state PKR deputy chairman See Chee How expressed shock at the amount of allocations being announced for projects and upgrades in Balingian since nomination on March 17.
He said the millions announced were more than what the constituency had seen in five decades.
Balingian has 13,233 registered voters of which majority are Malays and Melanau. The rest are Iban, Chinese and others.
The Chinese community's allegiance is what worries Adenan. He needs the Chinese and Ibans to vote for BN for an 'overwhelming' victory.
He has been trying to get the bickering factions within Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP) to prioritise the party which is facing deregistration.
He said the Chinese are fedup with the squabbling, but deeply bruised faction followers are unrelenting and suspicious of any peace plan.
In the last state election, the unhappy Chinese threw their lot behind DAP literally killing-off SUPP. DAP took away 13 seats from SUPP. PKR wrested two Iban majority seats and made impressive inroads in a few other rural seats.
Said Jeniri: "The size of the majority will depend on the Chinese and Iban voters, especially in relation to NCR land issues and unfulfilled promises. There is a lot of discontentment in these issues.
"BN needs them to turn out and vote. BN can get a big win if voter turnout is 75 percent."
He pointed out that in Balingian, BN had seen a declining majority in the last three state election, in 2001, 2006 and 2011.
Bearing this in mind, BN and PBB are not taking chances.
Yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin order BN campaign workers to do a headcount of party supporters at all polling streams and stations.
Muyhiddin wants the Balingian constituency to deliver a win by 6,000 vote majority while Adenan wants the PKR candidate to lose his deposit.
Adenan is hoping for BN to retain Balingian by a 7,000 vote majority and further stamp his authority as the all powerful leader of Sarawak.