Saturday, 19th March 2011
Election Must be Held Within 60 Days!
The 10th Sarawak state election is expected to be held in the middle of next month following the announcement by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud that the state legislative assembly will be dissolved on Monday.
The Election Commission is required to hold elections within 60 days of the dissolution of the assembly.
Sarawak Election :Revisited
Since the formation of Malaysia in 1963, Sarawak has held nine state elections — in 1969-1970, 1974, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006.
The first Sarawak election after the formation of Malaysia was staggered from May 10, 1969 to June 7, 1969 because the transportation and communication systems were not well developed at the time.
The state assembly was dissolved together with Parliament and the assemblies of all the other states, except Kelantan, on March 20, 1969 with nomination set for April 5, 1969.
However, due to the racial riots that occurred in Peninsular Malaysia on May 13 that year followed by the declaration of emergency, the polls were suspended until 1970.
When the suspension was enforced, polling in nine out of 48 constituencies in Sarawak had started but none had been completed.
The state and parliamentary elections resumed on June 6, 1970 and ended on July 4, 1970.
During the elections, tragedy struck in Sarikei on June 29, 1970 when communist terrorists killed three election officials returning home after the completion of polling at a station.
Outside another station in the same division, a land mine exploded, but nobody was injured.
Despite these incidents, 80 per cent of the electorate of 332,373 in Sarawak cast their votes, which was high compared to the turnout in the other states.
A total of 221 candidates contested 48 state seats in Sarawak, with the Sarawak Alliance comprising Parti Bumiputera Sarawak and the Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA) vying in 33 constituencies.
The Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) contested 40 seats, Parti Pesaka Sarawak (Pesaka) 35, and the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) 47, with 66 independents also in the fray.
SUPP later joined the Sarawak Alliance, enabling the coalition to secure 27 of the 48 seats in the State Council and form the government.
The second state election was held on Sept 14, 1974 simultaneously with the parliamentary election after the state assembly and other states assemblies and Parliament were dissolved on July 31, 1974.
However, the third state election was only held in 1979, a year after the general election of 1978, marking the first time that the Sarawak state election and general election were held separately.
The fourth state election was held 18 months before the end of the term under new Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, who took office on March 26, 1981.
The state assembly was dissolved on November 18, 1983, nomination was held on December 8 and polling on December 28 and 29.
The Sarawak assembly was dissolved on March 13, 1987 for the fifth state election after a group of assemblymen led by Taib’s uncle and predecessor Tun Rahman Yaakub rebelled against the chief minister in what is known as the “Ming Court Affair”.
They included some members from PBB who later formed the “Maju Group” faction of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) which pulled out of the state BN but remained as a BN component at the national level.
In the polls held on April 15 and 16, Taib led the state BN to victory, winning 28 out of the 48 seats in the state assembly. Later, eight PBDS assemblymen defected to the BN, giving it a two-thirds majority in the state assembly.
The sixth state election in 1991 was also held over two days, on September 28 and 29 Sept, while the seventh was held on September 7 and 8, 1996.
However, the eighth was held in a single day on September 27, 2001 due to improved infrastructure and communication. The state assembly was dissolved on September 3 while nomination was held on September 18, 2001.
The last state election was held on May 20, 2006 after the dissolution of the assembly on April 24 and nomination on May 9.
Sarawak’s State Legislative Assembly is regarded as the oldest legislature in Malaysia as it was established after its first inaugural meeting in Bintulu on September 8, 1867.
Its first 21-member Sarawak General Council was headed by Rajah Charles Brooke and consisted of six of his officers and 16 local community leaders. In 1903, the General Council was renamed Council Negri.
In 1941, Brooke’s son Vyner established a written constitution known as the Constitution Order in Council during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Brookes’ rule in Sarawak.
As a result, the Council Negri membership was increased to 24. Instead of Vyner Brookes (in his role as Rajah), the Chief Secretary was appointed to preside over the Council Negri.
In 1963, the Council Negri membership was increased to 42. Since then, the membership has risen incrementally to 48 in 1968, 56 in 1989, 62 in 1996 and 71 in 2006. In 1976, the Council Negri was renamed the Dewan Undangan Negeri (State Legislative Assembly). — Bernama