Election fever in Malaysia's Sarawak State

Dennis Wong
2016.05.02
Kuching
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Tawud Luhan, a member of the Bidayuh tribe, takes a breather after an early morning harvest near Semban village, Sarawak. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

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Harvesting paddy is labor intensive, giving farmers in Sarawak’s interior little time to concern themselves with what’s happening outside the state. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

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In Kapit, deep in Sarawak’s heartland, travelers rely on boats to get around. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

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A market in Sibu, the capital of Sarawak’s central region, sells live chickens wrapped in newspapers. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

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Despite isolated areas such as Kapit, most voters in Sarawak still support the Barisan Nasional coalition as their political choice for developing the state’s infrastructure. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

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The Murum Hydroelectric Dam is one of Sarawak’s prime assets, generating 4,500 megawatts of electricity for domestic consumption and helping to create jobs for locals. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (center) and others cheer the nomination of Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem (third from right) and others during Adenan’s nomination in Kuching, April 25, 2016. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

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Voters will determine who fills the Sarawak State Legislative Building when 1.3 million registered voters are expected to vote on May 7 for 80 contested seats. [Dennis Wong/BenarNews]

Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET on 2016-05-03

Located on the northwest coast of Borneo island, the heavily forested Malaysian state of Sarawak faces elections this week that were called amid a huge financial scandal implicating Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Resource-rich Sarawak is a bastion of Najib’s ruling National Front coalition which is expected to coast to victory in the polls in which the state’s 1.3 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots on May 7.

Although a top producer of oil and timber, Sarawak hosts some of Malaysia's poorest people, especially tribal communities in the rural areas separated from the rest of the state by rugged terrain and rivers.

Despite the 1MDB financial scandal centering around the state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad linking Najib, ruling coalition parties are widely expected to win most of the seats.

The Barisan Nasional coalition has controlled state politics for 53 years. It has promised grand infrastructure projects in Sarawak’s interior, such as a 1,089-km (676-mile) Pan Borneo Highway, slated to be finished by 2023 and which would serve as a transportation backbone connecting Sarawak to neighboring Sabah state.

Eighty seats in the assembly are up for grabs, with the National Front running unopposed in two additional seats.

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