Malaysia's ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) stormed to victory in the Sarawak state polls yesterday, securing a two-thirds majority in the state assembly with 72 seats, according to the Election Commission.
The strong win is a boon for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who will likely use the victory to show that the people still support his coalition despite the financial scandal engulfing his brainchild, state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad, analysts say.
The opposition's campaign trumpeting that a vote for BN is a vote for the scandal-linked Prime Minister failed to capture the imagination of rural voters who are more concerned with bread-and-butter issues such as access roads and water supply to their villages.
Mr Najib and most of his Cabinet had travelled to all corners of the state and announced at least RM380 million (S$129 million) in development projects during the 12-day campaign period.
These included construction of a cultural centre for ethnic Bidayuhs, an allocation for the Royal Malaysian Police's General Operations Force and the upgrading of roads.
NAJIB'S PERSONAL VICTORY
Najib was personally down on the ground and was well received by many voters in the places he visited. In a way, this proved the Prime Minister's critics wrong regarding his popularity.
COMMUNICATIONS AND MULTIMEDIA MINISTER SALLEH SAID KERUAK, on the Prime Minister's draw
Said Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak: "Najib was personally down on the ground and was well received by many voters in the places he visited.
"In a way, this proved the Prime Minister's critics wrong regarding his popularity."
BN had targeted 70 out of 82 seats in the state's 11th election outing and won two seats uncontested on nomination day.
The win of 72 seats, or 87.8 per cent, is far better than in the 2011 state polls, when BN won 55 out of 71 seats, or 77 per cent.
BN's win has been attributed to the popularity of new Chief Minister Adenan Satem, who took over from Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud in 2014. Mr Taib ruled Malaysia's largest state for 33 years.
Political analyst Jeniri Amir told The Sunday Times that the Adenan factor is the No. 1 reason for BN's thumping win, as the reforms the Chief Minister implemented and promises made in the past two years have resonated well with the electorate.
Dr Jeniri said: "He rode on that through his political marketing, and that is why his popularity ratings in our survey reached a high of 85 per cent."
Tan Sri Adenan was sworn in late yesterday by Sarawak's new head of state, Tun Abdul Taib.
The opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) lost five of its 12 Chinese-majority seats while Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) retained its three seats.
Political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the opposition's poor showing could be caused by the clash in seat allocation between PKR and DAP, which angered their supporters.
"DAP also retained their old theme of 'ubah' (change) which was relevant only when they wanted to remove Abdul Taib as chief minister of Sarawak. Now Mr Taib is no longer the CM, so the Chinese cannot see DAP's contribution in the 2016 election," Dr Awang Azman told The Sunday Times.
He added that BN's "carpet bombing" of election goodies prior to the election had also been very effective in retaining its rural seats and reclaiming some from the opposition.
Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian alluded to the DAP-PKR clash yesterday as the reason for the opposition's loss of some seats.
"If we do not come together as a team, Pakatan Harapan will be punished by the voters," he said, referring to the opposition alliance whose members include PKR and DAP.