Sabah will continue to be mired in a political crisis unless the winner of the state snap election gains victory with a convincing majority, said pundits.

However, it will be a challenge for any party to achieve a clean sweep in the polls, as the emergence of untested parties in the state such as Bersatu will likely split the vote in multi-cornered fights.

Speaking to Malaysiakini, long-time East Malaysia observer and University of Tasmania academic James Chin characterised the upcoming state elections as a “free for all”.

“Back in 2018, there were only two large coalitions – BN and the memorandum of understanding between Warisan and Pakatan Harapan, so most of the seats were (contested) one-to-one.

“So, that means, everyone will be trying their luck. There will be a lot more candidates this time,” Chin (below) predicted.

Even with two large players in GE14, none had emerged a clear winner. Immediately after the election, BN and Warisan-Harapan were deadlocked at 29 seats each.

The ensuing days saw Star siding with BN, allowing the latter to form the state government and Sungai Sibuga assemblyperson Musa Aman sworn in as chief minister for his fourth term.

Musa later lost his position after Upko and six BN assemblypersons defected to Warisan-Harapan, allowing Senallang assemblyperson Shafie Apdal to become the new chief minister instead.

Since GE14, Bersatu has set foot in Sabah. It had nine assemblypersons before the state assembly was dissolved on Thursday.

Meanwhile, former foreign minister and Musa’s younger brother Anifah Aman recently announced his comeback as the new leader of Parti Cinta Sabah.

On top of these new entries, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (Unimas) politics and government studies senior lecturer Arnold Puyok expected independent candidates to also enter the fray.

“They will split the vote.

“It is possible the electorate will look for alternatives to the present parties… because they were not involved in this issue of defections from Warisan or BN,” he told Malaysiakini.

“My assessment now is that there is a possibility we will go back to square one.

“Like what we experienced in the last election, small parties and new parties could be the kingmakers (after the election),” Puyok analysed.

Similarly, Chin foresaw more defections unless the winner is able to garner more than two-thirds majority in the 60-seat Sabah legislative assembly.

“The nightmare scenario for Sabah is that if the results are not conclusive like in 2018, then people will jump again.

“So the best outcome we want to hope for in this election is a clear result, at least a dozen majority,” he added.

‘Indirect referendum’ on coups

Earlier this week, Shafie (below) had pushed for snap polls to thwart Musa, who mounted a political coup by claiming defections from the Warisan government, which had given the latter a simple majority in the august House.

This is the second political coup for the country this year after February’s “Sheraton Move” where the defections of Bersatu and PKR MPs from Harapan led to the collapse of the Harapan federal government.

Bersatu and the defectors later allied with opposition parties BN, PAS, GPS, PBS, and Star to form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration.

Chin anticipated that the Sabah snap polls will shape up to be a “personality” showdown between Shafie and Musa, predicting the latter will be painted as an ally of the PN “backdoor government”.

Another key issue will be how Musa was controversially acquitted of 46 corruption and money laundering charges linked to timber concessions awarded during his time as chief minister.

Ultimately, Chin said the election results will serve as a barometer of sentiment towards PN.

“The people of Sabah will be the first people in Malaysia who will be given the chance to have an indirect referendum on the ‘backdoor government’,” he said.

“One of the issues used by Harapan will be (to use the election) as a way to punish Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his group for staging the coup d’etat in February. To teach PN and Muafakat Nasional a lesson,” he added.

For Puyok, the impending polls will also gauge Sabahans’ satisfaction with the Warisan government’s performance during its 27-month tenure.

It will further indicate what they think about “Peninsular-based parties” like PKR, DAP, and Bersatu.

“It is not just about the fight between Musa and Shafie.”

PN ‘weaponises’ Musa Aman against Shafie in Sabah

‘He was a hatchet man and true to form he did it.’

Assembly dissolution gazetted, Musa shows he has the numbers

The Wakandan: When former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman was released from his 46 criminal charges, the writing was on the wall. He was set free to wrest havoc in Sabah.

Warisan leader Shafie Apdal was an old rival. This is a war of proxies from the past. Musa was former PM Najib Abdul Razak’s man and Shafie is Mahathir Mohamad’s man. An old Mahathir does not have much fight left in him, not that he is not a good fighter, it is just that age has caught up with him.

With the two-time former premier paralysed with old age and devoid of power, Shafie is all alone, a tempting vulnerable prey for Musa to make for the kill. And it will be ruthless and without mercy. And what a spectre it will be.

Quigonbond: Well done, Shafie. Beat Musa to it. Perikatan Nasional (PN) must be vomiting blood now because letting Musa go of all the corruption charges bore no fruit at all.

On the contrary, it makes the public question them on their “rule of law” claim. Najib’s conviction was not about “rule of law”. It was about the survival of Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin and Umno leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. And those who are cynical think he will be let go by the higher courts eventually, or in the worst-case scenario, pardoned.

MVA: Both sides claim to be fighting for the people of Sabah, including Musa who was charged in court for corruption to the tune of hundreds of millions.

This is a chance for the people of Sabah to erase the frogs from the political landscape of the Land Below the Wind for good and also show Musa the verdict of the courts is not necessary the verdict of the people.

One: Musa and his frogs are shameless. It continues to demonstrate that he is out of touch with the people who have had enough of backdoor politics.

Yes, let’s hope the people of Sabah will shine the light for the country and boot out the corrupt and the traitors in the coming state election.

I hope the frogs enjoy the rest of their lives with the money they allegedly got and we won’t see them again. Their families, children and even parents should be ashamed to have these traitors in their homes.

Kim Quek: When there is a mass betrayal of the electorate’s mandate such as this, dissolution of the legislative assembly is the best solution, so that the mandate is returned to the people to make a fresh assessment and a final decision.

The current sabotage of the Warisan-led Sabah government bears all the hallmarks of Umno’s dirty politics to subvert state governments run by its opponents using a combination of material inducements and oppressive harassment from federal agencies.

This is demonstrated in a series of such falls of state chief ministers engineered by Umno rulers in the federal capital, starting from Sarawak’s first chief minister Stephen Ningkan (1966), to Sabah’s Joseph Pairin Kitingan of PBS (1994), to Perak’s Nizar Jamaluddin of Pakatan Rakyat (2009).

The current mass defection from the Sabah government is without doubt another glaring example of Umno’s bribery politics, with incessant pressure emanating from Putrajaya.

I congratulate Sabah Governor Juhar Mahiruddin for having made the wise decision to dissolve the assembly rather than yielding to the pressure to appoint another chief minister based on dubious paper declarations.

No more manipulations by dirty politicians. Let the people of Sabah decide who they want to run the state.

Sun: Some lessons from this unfolding saga. Loss of political power aggravates physical illness, real or imagined. The smell of power promises immediate recovery. Musa has lost his walking stick.

Conviction and jail sentences cannot extinguish the delusions of grandeur. Najib continues to act as if he is relevant.

Beware of Umno rejects who join you after you win; they move with power shifts. Kemabon state representative Jamawi Jaffar from Umno joined Warisan only to betray it later.

Governors are not customers who you must convince to gain power. The people decide, the governor assists that democratic process. Thumbs up for the governor.

Finally (for now), there is many a slip twixt the cup and lip (as Musa just found out).

Fredtan: Pakatan Harapan which consisted of PKR, DAP and Amanah gave immediate support to the Warisan government. Those of their members who had betrayed the parties to side with Musa’s PN group were immediately sacked.

However, the question is, “Where is Shafie’s beloved mentor, Mahathir?” Where are the Mahathir members of the so-called “Bersatu Black” leaders? A true friend should come without hesitation to lend support for a friend in distress.

Is Mahathir’s delay in showing/or not showing his support to Warisan, a federal opposition, got to do with his rumoured intention to return to Umno? Is that why he didn’t want to offend Umno at this juncture which could jeopardise his return to his former party?

Gerard Lourdesamy: Why is Najib commenting? Does he have the gumption to get Muhyiddin to dissolve Parliament and call a snap general election? If Umno and PAS claim to have overwhelming support from Malay voters, they should not fear asking the people for a fresh mandate.

Incidentally, in GE14, BN and Warisan both had 29 assemblypersons respectively in Sabah. It was a hung assembly. Musa first got the majority when Star decided to support BN but he lost the majority when Upko pulled out of BN and decided to support Warisan.

Najib should not try to take the moral high-ground. When the Harapan government collapsed in February, why didn’t Najib demand that Parliament be dissolved? Instead, Umno went grovelling with PAS to form a backdoor government with Bersatu and former PKR leader Azmin Ali’s faction.

Headhunter: To show the people’s support, Musa should put up all the 33 people in the picture for re-election. See if Sabahans accept them or not.

Coward: One way to eliminate the frog pandemic is to make sure the frogs don’t get a payday. In other words, remove the incentive for jumping right under their feet. The statutory declarations are not worth the paper they are written on. That’s the second pandemic that had to be eradicated.

The bonus? Expose politicians who only have their own interest at heart. Let the people decide whether they still want them. If they do, then there is nothing we can say.

Naatamai: The good thing to happen with the dissolution is that all those who put out themselves on sale are all left out to dry.

Their respective parties are going to sack them and any other party would be hesitant to take them in for fear of them going on sale again! They were all so close to their ‘millions’ but alas karma kicked in.

Quo Vadis: Defrogging – that’s the hope for the future. Put the frogs in the cesspool to fill their appetites to the full to the point of satiation.

Specialist Batsman: The events this week have undoubtedly brought a silver lining all Malaysians would cherish for a long time to come.

First, a courageous High Court judge convicted the nation’s former premier on all seven charges of money laundering and abuse of power. A few days later, the Sabah governor consented, in a wise decision, to the request by the chief minister to dissolve the Sabah State Legislative Assembly.

The mandate to form a government should always be decided by the people expressed through the ballot box in a parliamentary democracy.

What a week, and something for all Malaysians to cheer about.