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'Greater PKR autonomy in East Malaysia will raise support'
Published on: Monday, December 04, 2023
By: FMT, Ameer Fakhri
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'Greater PKR autonomy in East Malaysia will raise support'
PKR should appoint more East Malaysians to the party’s vice-presidential posts and to the Senate, says an academic.
PETALING JAYA: The East Malaysian chapters of PKR should be given greater autonomy and more funds to them to establish a stronger foothold in Sabah and Sarawak, says a political analyst.

Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said Sabah and Sarawak PKR should have the freedom to appoint their respective state chiefs and to nominate election candidates on their own.

He told FMT that they will also need to be given more funds from the party’s central budget so that they can be mobilised more widely to woo potential members.

“PKR should focus on increasing its membership and strengthening its position in East Malaysia by giving greater autonomy to the states’ leadership.”

Anwar Ibrahim’s party should leverage on its position as one of the ruling parties by appointing more of its East Malaysian leaders to party vice-presidential posts and senatorships,” Awang Azman said.

By appointing PKR leaders from Sabah and Sarawak to key positions within the party and also at the national level, he said the party would be better positioned to garner the support of people in the region.

PKR had managed to establish a presence in a handful of parts of East Malaysia previously, succeeding in winning four parliamentary seats in Sarawak and three in Sabah during the 14th general election in 2018.

However, in the general election last year, Anwar’s party won only one seat each in Sabah and Sarawak, namely Sepanggar and Miri, despite fielding a total of 25 candidates.

The party was also wiped out in the 2021 Sarawak state elections and only managed to win two seats during the 2020 Sabah state polls.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania said PKR had struggled in East Malaysia compared to DAP as the lack of challenge from a local Chinese-based party allowed DAP to excel in securing support in Chinese-majority urban seats.

“Since PKR mostly goes after the Bumiputera votes in Sabah and Sarawak, they will encounter this problem (of stiff competition with local parties).

“In Sabah, the problem is even more acute, because there are so many parties in Sabah that represent the Bumiputera there. So it is harder for them to establish a presence over there,” Chin said.

He added that the strong state-centric sentiment and differing ethnic backgrounds between West and East Malaysia have consistently presented challenges for Peninsula-based parties in establishing a foothold in the region.

On the other hand, Syahruddin Ag Ahmad of Universiti Malaysia Sabah said if the unity government fulfills its promise to implement the pledges of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, PKR would gain traction in East Malaysia.

He said the record-breaking RM12.4 billion development fund allocated to Sabah and Sarawak in the 2024 budget was a decisive step by Anwar which demonstrated his commitment to uphold the agreement.

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