PM Najib is on a four-day tour of Sabah. Perhaps making a personal visit to the Land Below the Wind can help him find the inspiration whether an early state election should be called.
What he is facing appears to be nothing more than a simple arithmetic problem. In the last election, BN won 48 of the 60 state seats. Despite the fact the results were not very encouraging, the ruling coalition somehow still managed to hold on to two-thirds majority in the state assembly.
If an early election is called, and BN wins more than 48 seats, then it will be a big victory for the ruling coalition as it will not only ensure that BN retains the state administration, but also lend a much needed morale booster in the run-up to the general elections.
If BN’s performance is poorer than last time, then an early election will not have any meaning to the party. And if the results are far worse, for instance fewer than 40 seats, BN’s morale will be bruised.
It is going to be a dilemma for Najib. He cannot afford to let Sabah affect the general elections, but he also does not want to miss a great timing to call an early state election.
48 is a threshold, and the question is: will it be above or below this line? No one can come out with any good forecast as yet, and the deviation could be remarkable.
The state BN is teeming with confidence now, believing it can capture 50 to 57 seats, while the state opposition vows to slash BN’s catch to below 40, with an eye on the slim chances of toppling the BN administration.
In Kota Kinabalu, I met the state minister with special duties Teo Chee Kang, who is the president of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The soft spoken lawyer-turned-politician had a cautiously optimistic view.
He predicted that if a state election is called soon, the results would not be much different from last time’s.
“But, the Sabah politics is more complicated and there are plenty of unknowns. The outcome will be determined by political dynamics, be it for the BN or opposition. To do well in the election, we must be in control of the state’s political dynamics.”
He admitted that Parti Warisan Sabah led by Mohd Shafie Apdal has displayed innegligible dynamism with its Jelajah Sabah campaign which has gained significant momentum across the state, thanks to Shafie’s localism advocacy that resonates with the increasing awareness in autonomy among Sabahans.
In addition, Sabah lacks a leader like Adenan Satem to voice out such advocacy, while the state Umno has failed to shed its image of dominance from the Peninsula.
The question is, while opposition parties in the state have come up with their own doctrines, the voters have failed to see actual substance in them, nor the ability to put those into implementation.
Damages inflicted by the opposition parties upon one another far outweigh their attacks on the BN. A local newspaper reported on its front page last week that DAP’s MP for Kota Kinabalu Jimmy Wong hit out at Shafie, doubting that Shafie was the real opposition leader of the state.
Parti Warisan’s vice president Junz Wong admitted that if negotiations fail, his party could run in all the 60 state seats.
During the last election, opposition’s votes in five constituencies outnumbered those of BN, which eventually won the seats because of diluted vote counts for individual parties as a result of multi-cornered fights.
A cruel fact it is, but political parties do not seem to have learned a lesson from past mistakes due to greed, and will continue to fight among themselves.
With Warisan now coming into picture, the internal fights among opposition parties will only pick up steam, eroding the voters’ confidence in them.
To be honest, BN does not command any advantage in Sabah, but has instead incurred the wrath of some voters. Nevertheless, in the wake of a divided opposition camp which is fast losing its steam, chief minister Musa Aman feels the timing couldn’t have been better now to crush the opponents.
All that he is waiting for now is a nod from the PM.