Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is anything but a low-key personality. From his mansions to his official Rolls Royce car, he is unabashed about displaying his wealth and power.
Right down to his 'big' announcement last Saturday, Taib has been carefully building up the momentum, promising a sensational piece of news to journalists last Friday.
But after announcing that he would be stepping down eventually, without giving a time frame or deadline, many have been left wondering if this will have any impact.
After all, Taib - over his tenure of 30 years - has made similar announcements several times, with the most recent one being in 2006, also right before the state election. He later said that BN component parties in the state had asked him to stay on.
If anything, announcing his 'resignation' could be seen as appeasing the Chinese voters who make up more than a quarter of the state's population.
It is no secret that the Chinese voters, with a large concentration in the urban areas such as Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Sarikei, have a long-standing disdain for Taib.
They refer to him as pek moh (Hokkien for 'white hair'), synonymous with his now-thinning mane.
Their voting pattern has been largely similar to that of the Chinese community in Peninsular Malaysia, and is driven by national issues seen through 'anti-establishment' glasses.
Analysts are not having sleepless nights over Taib's announcement, saying that it is 'no shocker'.
“People are already expecting (Taib) to call it a day, so no, I don't think that there will be much (impact). This is especially (so) with the Chinese voters, because it's not the first time he is saying this, said Jeniri Amir, dean of the communications faculty in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
“He has spoken of a transition of power many times already.”
Jeniri also said Taib's announcement could be a BN strategy to quell public sentiments in the hope that voters will support BN.
“(This is) because he is the main issue. When you talk about Taib, people tend to relate to what he did over the last 30 years. He is perceived to be abusing his power, (including) claims of nepotism, cronyism and corruption,” said Jeniri.
“Even with other groups, they have expected him to retire. He had earlier promised to retire and I think they will only believe him once they see him retire.”
'No qualified leader'
Political analyst James Chin of Monash University said uneasiness with Taib is being felt across the board.
“If the announcement has zero effect on Chinese-majority areas, it also may have limited effect in other areas. My view is that, it will have no big impact even if the issue is not about him, but rather allegations of corruption and abuse of power,” he said.
Chin (left) refuted the claim that other ethnic groups, including Taib's own Melanau community, are more accepting of the allegations.
“I don't think that is true. The bumiputeras there do not have access to information,” said Chin, a Sarawak native.
He also reckoned that the announcement was timed to take the wind out of the opposition's sails in view of the state polls on April 16.
“Then, I suppose in the BN campaign, they will say that Pakatan has no right to call Taib to step down because he has already made the announcement. But I don't think it will work. Taib is known to be a billionaire,” said Chin.
Even if the announcement does not have an immediate effect on voters, Jeniri said, it may set things in motion for Taib within BN and his PBB party.
“The pressure has been gaining momentum, not just at state or national level, but he has become an international issue. People expect him to pass the baton,” he said.
Despite Taib having hinted at several names as his successor - including PBB deputy presidents Abang Johari Openg and Alfred Jabu - it is still unclear as to who the frontrunners are.
“I don't think he has found a qualified leader. But after 30 years, there will be great implications for the whole Sarawak,” said Jeniri.
“Taib will need to find a way to forge cooperation between the next CM and deputy. They will need to walk together, for the sake of Sarawak.”