KOTA KINABALU: Political analysts have predicted a tough road ahead for the newly minted Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government in keeping the coalition together after its victory in last week’s state election.

They say potential infighting, party rivalry and strong personalities within the loose GRS coalition government – comprising Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional and PBS – are among the triggers for everything to crumble.

Arnold Puyok of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said the episode on Tuesday involving Sabah BN chief Bung Moktar Radin, who was initially sworn in as the state housing and local government minister but was later given the works ministry portfolio by new Chief Minister Hajiji Noor, was a case in point.

“Looks like this is a rough start for GRS … it was not a good start for the new government,” he told FMT.

Arnold Puyok.

“If they can survive for the next six months or so, that’s a real achievement. Let’s see if they can iron out their differences within the first six months.”

Just hours after the swearing-in, Hajiji announced that Bung would swap ministries with Sabah PPBM deputy chief Masidi Manjun.

Asked whether there were any initial discussions over the distribution of Cabinet positions among the parties, Hajiji confirmed there were but that the “minor” change was due to “extra work” cropping up.

Sources had earlier said Bung was unhappy over the distribution of posts to Sabah BN, which had helped GRS to secure 38 seats in Saturday’s election.

They claimed that Bung had left abruptly after the swearing-in of the new chief minister and three deputy chief ministers at Istana Negeri.

Bridget Welsh.

Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham (Malaysia) said GRS was a new coalition and the partners would need to learn to work together, one way or another.

“There are strong personalities, different styles and expectations. Numbers are secure but not fully secure as all it will take is for one party to leave to destabilise GRS.

“The federal political instability will cast a shadow on Sabah and this is the main challenge ahead – the interrelationship of federal and state political uncertainties,” she told FMT.

Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Pawi from Universiti Malaya believes that Tuesday’s episode was only “the tip of the iceberg”.

Awang Azman Pawi.

He said the friction would continue and be reflected in the jostling for positions not only at state level but also down to the grassroots.

“This will continue in the distribution of positions such as city and district councils, and even when involving distribution of projects from big ones to meagre undertakings such as grass cutting and drainage maintenance.

“GRS will become even more shaky and fragile when it comes to the distribution of parliamentary seats considering we are heading into the general election,” he said.

Of the 38 seats won by GRS, 17 were secured by PN, 14 by BN and seven by PBS.

Warisan Plus won 29 seats while its allies PKR won two and Upko one. The three remaining seats went to independent candidates but they are understood to be siding with GRS.