KOTA KINABALU – Speculation of an early state election has put pressure on the fragmented Sabah Opposition to firm up a pact to face ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) in straight fights.
Long-time opposition leader Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said the intention has always been present, but talks of a poll as early as April have pushed discussions up a notch.
“The total Opposition alliance will come sooner or later. An earlier poll would most likely speed it up. It is pushing us to have discussions on our common interests,” he told Malay Mail Online here.
Jeffrey said he would prefer the state election be held after the 13 new state seats be tabled and approved, but admitted the issue would not make much difference to the results. The seats are expected to be tabled in Parliament in March.
“Most of the active voters have already decided on a change of government,” he said.
Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin said he is still hopeful of reaching a consensus with the local parties but admitted that progress has been slow so far.
“The doors have always been open. But somehow, we have not built any bridges yet.
“Relations are good between the opposition parties, but there is still a lack of communication,” he said.
In any case, Chan said that the party was ready to face the election, having enjoyed a renewed pact with Sabah chapters of federal allies PKR and Parti Amanah Negara, despite a turbulent past few months which saw several of their leaders defecting to join local parties instead.
The United Sabah Alliance also known as Gabungan — comprising of Jeffrey’s Parti Solidarity Tanah Airku (Sabah Star), Parti Cinta Sabah, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), and the latest addition, Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah (Harapan) — will also have to negotiate for seat distribution among themselves.
Although all parties have agreed that fielding one candidate among themselves to face the BN government is the ideal scenario, Parti Warisan Sabah vice-president Junz Wong said it is “almost impossible”, and voters must accept the situation and prepare for multi-corner fights.
“Us and Pakatan are also not in good working relationships so the possibility of us working together is very, very slim. Unless a miracle happens, I don’t see it happening,” he said, referring to straight fights.
Warisan, the lone party who has yet to align itself with any local or national pact, said it is being very careful in choosing credible allies who have the same agenda for Sabah autonomy and replacing the government, without any self-serving agenda.
“The next election is not about contesting and winning as an opposition. It’s about winning and forming the new Sabah government.
“It’s not that we want to contest all 73 seats, or 60 seats. It’s not just about ‘winnable seats’. We cannot let BN win any seat uncontested, that is what I mean by we want to contest all the seats,” he said.
Wong said that they were still hopeful of finding a good partner, but for now, will focus their efforts on preparing their machinery for a possible April election.
“Of course we want to partner up with somebody, it is always better to have allies, but we want to make sure we do not make repeated mistakes of choosing the wrong people, so we have to be careful,” he said.
Wong said that despite a unified agenda, past elections had shown infighting had resulted in allies contesting against each other in both the last general election and the recent Sarawak election.
“They have to sort themselves out first before inviting another party in to talk.
“I’m sure there will be interesting developments closer to the election that people can accept. But this is the current situation. I’m positive we will find a suitable partner come election time,” he said.
In Malaysia, any state may dissolve its legislative assembly independently of Parliament, but in practice, most states coincide their polls with federal elections.
Opposition parties made gains in Election 2013, winning 12 of the 60 state seats and three of the 25 parliamentary seats since then, defections have whittled this down to two federal and four state seats.
Sabah previously held state polls separately from the general election, but has synchronised with federal polls since 2004.
It was reported that Sabah BN would be submitting a “detailed evaluation” and risk analysis of the 60 state seats to the Prime Minister for approval before a final decision is made.
– Malay Mail