RUNAWAY VICTORY OR NO CLEAR WINNER – MALAYSIANS LOOK TO VOLATILE SABAH POLLS FOR NEW NATIONAL LEADERSHIP: IS SHAFIE REALLY SET FOR TWO-THIRDS SWEEP – IS UMNO SABAH REALLY BURNING – AND IF SO, ‘ABAH’ MUHYIDDIN’S BERSATU WILL BE FRIED TO A CRISP
Kenny Chua during Sabah Election. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star
THE two biggest coalitions contesting the Sabah elections have a fair chance of victory as campaigning enters its midway point over the weekend, as each has both strengths and weaknesses that make them evenly matched.
At the same time, the presence of alternative parties led by influential personalities have made it hard for both sides – Warisan Plus and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah – to predict whose votes these third parties will split.
Incumbent Warisan Plus comprises Parti Warisan Sabah, PKR, DAP and Upko, while GRS is the pact formed by Sabah BN, Perikatan Nasional and PBS.
After nine days of the official campaign period, the choices being presented to Sabahans are:
* whether to give 26-month-old Sabah-led Warisan Plus another chance to complete its term despite its uneven service performance;
* to let GRS, an alliance whose strings are being pulled from the peninsula, to pour in much-needed development funds to boost a local economy devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic; and,
* to abandon the two flawed coalitions in favour of parties led by local heroes, such as Anifah Aman, Pandikar Amin Mulia and Chong Ka Kiat.
Both Warisan Plus and GRS are doubling down on their xenophobic rhetoric towards each other in order to gain any advantage in multi-candidate contests in all 73 constituencies.
These narratives are shared by 25 voters with The Malaysian Insight along the west coast from Tempasuk to Inanam to Kuala Penyu.
A majority are dissatisfied with Warisan Plus’ 2½-year administration, pointing to uneven aid distribution and poor service for local councils.
“Both major coalitions balance each other out as they have both winning and negative factors,” said political scientist Dr Mazlan Ali, who has been travelling all over the region to study the polls.
“Because they balance each other out, their last-minute tactics in the next five days until polling day will likely determine who has the final upper hand,” said Mazlan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
Muhyiddin v Shafie
Tambunan voter Lei Shiong’s feelings towards Warisan Plus and GRS reflect each coalition’s pros and cons as he compared their service records, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Warisan is okay but the Covid-19 aid did not come. The only help we received was from (Prime Minister) Muhyiddin Yassin. So, we are likely to vote for Perikatan,” said the 29-year-old from Kg Meilot.
Muhyiddin, whose nation-wide favourability rating is almost 70%, is PN-GRS’s biggest trump card in the campaign.
Billboards and posters featuring Muhyiddin, affectionately known as “abah” (Malay for dad), are plastered all over Sabah, especially in the 29 seats PN is contesting.
“PN is hoping that Muhyiddin’s popularity will rub off on them and make up for their lack of a strong, credible chief minister candidate, ” said UTM’s Mazlan.
On the other hand, Shafie is Warisan Plus’ ace and according to a survey by Sabah-based think-tank SEED, he comes out on top over other local personalities from GRS.
These include Sabah BN chief Bung Moktar Radin, former chief minister Musa Aman and Sabah PN leader Hajiji Mohd Noor.
SEED’s survey found that among 2,350 respondents, Shafie came out at 39%, Musa 15%, Bung 11% and Hajiji 11%.
But Warisan Plus suffers from accusations that it bungled its distribution of the RM300 Covid-19 aid for households and that it was selective about the help.
Kuala Penyu resident Suraya Rahman said not only did she not receive Covid-19 aid despite being from a low-income family, the local council under Warisan Plus did little to help when her house was flooded.
“They just came and looked. And they went away and I didn’t hear a thing from them. They are unlike BN, who in the past, helped us out when we were hit by floods,” said the 51-year-old snack seller.
Yet other residents such as restaurant owner William Joe appear to accept Warisan Plus’ rationale to explain these shortcomings.
“You cannot build a house in two years just like you cannot complete all your plans for a state in two years,” said Joe, another Kuala Penyu resident.
“Warisan was robbed of its chance to serve out its term. I believe they deserve another chance.”
Despite its bigger machinery and the ability to use federal funds to entice support, Sabah BN and PN suffers from infighting among their partners which can cost them seats.
Sabah BN component parties, Sabah Umno, Sabah MCA and PBRS are contesting against allies in PN, such as STAR and PBS in at least 18 seats.
The split in votes among these opposition parties will give an upper hand for Warisan Plus, said UTM’s Mazlan.
Veteran BN leaders, such as Najib Razak, have recognised this and urged the coalition’s party activists to ensure that the anti-Warisan vote is pooled behind BN.
At a time when they are evenly matched and where the former Sabah BN and Warisan governments survived only on slim majorities in the legislature, the results in these 18 seats will determine who is the winner.
The presence of other locally based parties marketing themselves as alternatives, such as Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and United Sabah National Organisation (Usno), has also added to the fluid situation, said Mazlan.
These parties are headed by Sabah icons such as former minister Anifah and Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar, whose families have deep networks in the region.
“Pandikar, for instance, is considered a hero among the Bajau Iranun community, which are the majority Bumiputera in the Pintasan seat he is contesting,” said Mazlan.
Because of its poverty and the state of its economy, Sabah’s politics is still largely ethnic and development-based where support will often go towards parties or personalities that provide bread-and-butter services.
In such a landscape, personalities able to deliver services, aid and who are approachable, will have a distinct advantage over other candidates.
In fact, the SEED survey found that 49% of respondents voted based on candidate and personality.
“So even if he comes from a smaller party, someone like Pandikar will have a big advantage over bigger parties like Warisan Plus and Sabah BN whose candidates are known to locals,” said Mazlan.
“This is why the contest for Sabah is still 50-50 among Warisan and GRS. There is still no clear winner.” THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT
Laluan UMNO di Sabah bermula pada tahun 1990 dengan Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun menjadi pengerusi UMNO Sabah yang pertama. Apakah kehadiran UMNO di Sabah selama 30 tahun ini telah membawa keuntungan yang lumayan bagi penduduk negeri Sabah ataupun UMNO lebih menguntungkan diri saja dan membawa masuk berbagai masalah bagi negeri Sabah? Contohnya Projek IC yang membawa masuk berpuluhan ribu orang Filipina untuk membantu dasar “divide and rule” ?
Kemungkinan yang besar sekali ialah PRN Negeri Sabah 26 September ini akan melihat UMNO Sabah kalah dan terkubur sama sekali. This will be the end of UMNO Sabah.
Serupa “biduk berlalu kiambang bertaut” maka begitu juga orang Sabah akan bersatu kembali untuk menentukan masa depan negeri mereka.
Di Semenanjung pun UMNO gagal meyakinkan orang Melayu dan bukan Melayu bahawa mereka boleh terus percaya kepada UMNO. Maka kekalahan teruk UMNO pada PRU14. Sekarang walaupun kembali berkuasa, UMNO cuma jadi spare tyre di belakang lori yang di pandu oleh Bersatu. Apa nak hairan UMNO telah gagal meyakinkan orang Sabah juga akan masa depan mereka?
UMNO Sabah perlu bersedia untuk upacara “menurunkan bendera” atau ‘lowering the flag ceremony’. – http://syedsoutsidethebox.blogspot.com/
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT / http://syedsoutsidethebox.blogspot.com/