Another by-election looms if Sarawak Chief Minister resigns

Chief Minister Taib Mahmud addresses the crowd at a Ramah Tamah Aidilfitri reception in Kuching, Sarawak

PETALING JAYA - A second by-election this year is in the cards in Balingian, Sarawak, if the state's longest-serving Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud resigns by the end of this month.

Taib, who is Balingian assemblyman since 2001, needs to resign as an elected representative soon if he is to be made the next state of head. Any resignation before June 20 will result in a by-election.

Taib announced during a PBB supreme council meeting on Satur­day that he would step down as Chief Minister.

The council expressed its unanimous stand that it wanted him as the next Yang di-Pertua Negri.

As the head of the state must be apolitical, Taib has to relinquish all executive posts in the state cabinet and PBB.

Sarawak Election Commission director Datuk Takun Sunggah said that under the state's constitution, there would be no by-election if there was any casual vacancy within two years from the expiry of the State Legislative Assembly.

"The Sarawak assembly will expire on June 20, 2016. So the two-year period begins on June 21, 2014.

"If anyone resigns before June 20, there will be a by-election," he told The Star via SMS.

With the current Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Muhammad Salahuddin's term expiring on Feb 28, Taib is expected to take the oath as the next governor on March 1.

In Kuching, Sarawak Barisan Nasional secretary-general Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi said Taib would resign as Chief Minister by "the end of the month".

Taib was, however, guarded when asked if he would submit his resignation letter to the Governor.

"Yes. You will see. I've got to do things in proper sequence," he said, declining to take further questions.

PBB deputy women chief Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said a Balingian by-election was "a big possibility".

"Although he (Taib) didn't give a date, he did say that he would resign at the end of the month. That is also the end of the existing Governor's term. You can work it out," she added.

Taib, who will turn 78 in May, was sworn in as the fourth Chief Minister of the state on March 26, 1981.

He began his seventh term on April 16, 2011.

He is also currently Resource and Environment Minister and Planning Minister in the state cabinet.

In the 2011 election, Taib won the seat with a huge majority of 5,154 votes against Suriati Abdullah (PKR) who garnered 871 votes and independent candidate Salleh Jafaruddin who polled 1,056 votes.

Prior to Balingian, he was the Asajaya assemblyman for two terms in 1991 and 1996. He was also the assemblyman for Sebandi in 1981, 1983 and 1987.

Taib was elected MP for Samarahan in 1969, 1974, 1978, 1982 and 1986, and in 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2004 when the constituency was renamed as Kota Samarahan.