KUCHING: A COMFORTABLE victory is on the cards for Sarawak Barisan Nasional, which is expected to secure between 23 and 27 of the 31 parliamentary seats.
The coalition's main pillar, Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), led by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, is expected to be the big winner and continue its 100 per cent victory as in 2008 by winning all 14 seats it is contesting.
A political observer said PBB's advantage was the "strong" support from the Bumiputera (both Muslim and non-Muslim) community.
"In Sarawak, PBB is considered as the sole representative for the Muslim Bumiputera as the other two parties -- Pas and PKR -- lack the credibility and have no credible leaders in the community."
Perhaps, the only tough seat for PBB is Limbang where its candidate, Hasbi Habibollah, is facing a tough fight from state PKR chairman Baru Bian.
Hasbi is a well-known figure in Limbang, and the various rural development projects he had brought there was proof of his achievements, while Baru is banking on the Orang Ulu, who make up about 50 per cent of the electorate.
The main obstacle for Sarawak BN, however, was getting the support of the Chinese in the urban areas where the seats were contested by Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP).
Of its seven seats, SUPP was certain to retain the non-Muslim Bumiputera predominant seat of Serian. It is also a tough fight in Kuching, Stampin, Sarikei, Lanang, Sibu and Miri.
Political pundits agree that SUPP had "slightly better winning chances" to retain Stampin and win over Sibu, compared with the other four.
BN's candidate for Stampin is Datuk Yong Khoon Seng, who has a reputation of being a down-to- earth leader. Retaining him as its candidate could work in favour for BN, although DAP was said to be leading in the constituency.
In Sibu, BN's chances were boosted by its candidate, former "Temenggong" Vincent Lau Lee Ming, who is influential among the Chinese and known for his reputed track record.
His opponent, state DAP chairman Wong Ho Leng, had decided not to re-contest the his seat, citing health reasons, thus paving the way for newcomer Oscar Ling Chai Yew.
Sarawak Progressive Democrative Party (SPDP) is facing a tough battle in Saratok, where its president, Tan Sri William Mawan, is locking horns with PKR's Ali Biju, who is also Krian assemblyman. (Krian is one of the two state seats in Saratok).
Since he is not from Saratok, Mawan is considered as an "outsider", but his position as a senior state minister could work well to his advantage.
"People in Saratok may prefer Ali than Mawan, but they do not like PKR and still prefer BN. So, the battle in Satarok is between choosing the candidate or the party," said a voter in the area.
SPDP could also spring a surprise by coming out victorious in Mas Gading, although their candidate, newcomer Anthony Nogeh, was initially considered as an underdog, compared with former BN member of parliament Datuk Tiki Lafe, who is now contesting as an independent.
The fourth Sarawak BN component party, Parti Rakyat Sarawak, is likely to retain its five seats. Its biggest challenge perhaps is only in Hulu Rajang.
In the 2008 general election, the state BN won 30 parliamentary seats and lost Kuching to DAP, which also won the Sibu seat in the 2010 by-election. The voters in the state only elect the MPs today as the state assemblies term only expires in 2016. Additional reporting by Izwan Ismail and Farezza Rashid