Parti Pesaka Bumiputera (PBB) deputy president Datuk Abang Johari Tun Openg appears to be the frontrunner to be the sixth Sarawak chief minister.
Although several names in the party hierarchy are being mentioned as contenders to succeed the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem, none are as loud as that of the Deputy Chief Minister 2.
The other prospective candidates are PBB senior vice-presidents Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas (Deputy Chief Minister 1) and Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, according to political observers.
An outside candidate being whispered is PBB Youth chief Datuk Fadillah Yusof, who is Petrajaya MP and Works Minister.
They said Abang Jo, as Abang Johari is fondly known, is the obvious choice to continue Adenan’s work for the state.
Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) said Abang Johari is the most promising candidate and has the clear upper hand.
“To face the current political landscape, you need a seasoned politician who has political acumen. Abang Jo is established and has wide experience.
“He is also well-respected by other (Sarawak Barisan Nasional) component parties, and can work well with party leaders,” he toldThe Star Online Thursday.
According to Dr Jeniri, PBB tradition also dictates that Abang Johari should take up the mantle because he is the party’s second in command.
This ranks him ahead of the other candidates, such as Douglas Uggah and Awang Tengah, the Unimas lecturer added.
As for Fadillah, he is not an assemblyman but will be eligible to contest Adenan’s Tanjong Datu seat should he be selected by the party, Dr Jeniri said.
However, he thinks Fadillah is too junior in the party and will not be a popular choice among the more senior members of PBB.
“He’s still very junior. The time will come for him. Focus on those more senior, otherwise people will perceive his selection negatively,” he said.
Under Article 6(3)(a) of the Sarawak constitution, the Yang di-Pertua Negri has the right to appoint the chief minister from among the assemblymen who command majority support in the state assembly.
Prof Stanley Bye Kadam Kiai, also of Unimas, said an announcement on the post of acting chief minister will likely be made immediately after the seven-day mourning period is over.
“They (PBB and other Barisan component parties) will have a discussion in the next few days and an announcement will be made.
“It will be straightforward,” said Bye, who agrees that Abang Johari will be the likely choice.
“Immediately after Adenan’s death, the statements and press conferences were conducted by Abang Jo. This already sends a message,” he added.
Adenan, who led Barisan Nasional to victory in the state elections last May, died from heart failure at the Sarawak Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan, near Kuching, on Wednesday afternoon. He was 72.