KOTA KINABALU: Warisan, which ruled Sabah as an opposition state after the last general election, may swing to other parties and coalitions instead of working with Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang in the coming general election (GE15), say analysts.
This is because Pejuang, whose status is still up in the air with its registration rejected by the Registrar of Societies, will have little to offer the Sabah-based party in its quest to return as a political powerhouse in the country.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer Romzi Ationg said one speculation that is gaining traction is that Warisan could work with Barisan Nasional-Umno in GE15.
He said there are rumours in political circles that Warisan is also revisiting its pact with Pakatan Harapan (PH) and will thus need a strong substitute to ensure its own survival if it did part ways with PH.
“Anything is possible in politics but I dont think it is good for Warisan to focus on Mahathir and Pejuang,” he told FMT.
“Warisan president Shafie Apdal, who along with PH boss Anwar Ibrahim had been touted as prime ministerial candidate, should focus on consolidating his party’s grip on Sabah as well as federal politics by collaborating with parties who many consider more relevant to Malaysian politics.
“The political outfit (that Warisan should work with) should also be capable of making Sabah a developed state on par with others in the peninsula.”
Romzi was commenting on socio-political analyst Awang Azman Pawi’s suggestion that Warisan would likely throw its support behind Mahathir in GE15 due to Shafie’s “personal relationship” with the former prime minister.
Although he is not 100% convinced Warisan will eventually link up with its current political enemy, Romzi said Warisan could work with BN-Umno instead of Perikatan Nasional because of the former’s stability. Shafie himself was a former Umno vice-president and has good friends within the top Umno circles.
Romzi said Warisan and BN-Umno could complement each other, with Warisan requiring an ally to gain more seats in GE15 and BN-Umno needing a solid local-based party that could help it re-establish its position in Sabah.
“Why would Warisan pick BN-Umno over PN? Among the reasons is that Umno is still strong in the peninsula (compared to PN),” he said.
Whether such an alliance would materialise remains to be seen as Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking had previously said his party would never join forces with Umno.
This came after a claim that many of the peninsula-based party’s MPs and those from BN were backing Anwar to form a new government.
Sabah Umno is part of the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition, together with PN and PBS. Yesterday, Warisan assemblyman Hassan A Gani Pg Amir left Warisan to back GRS, which is now affiliated to the PN government.
Political observers, however, consider the ties between Sabah Umno and its GRS partners to be tenuous, particularly with Sabah PPBM, especially after the tensions over the chief minister’s post following last year’s state election.
Sabah Umno helped GRS secure a slim majority by winning 38 seats but conceded the chief ministership to Sabah PPBM, which angered a host of Umno leaders.
Universiti of Malaysia Sarawak deputy dean Arnold Puyok said Warisan working with BN-Umno may not sit well with some of its supporters.
“But Warisan should be ready to work with anyone if it aspires to be at the helm once again,” he said, adding that he believed Warisan was still keeping its options open as far as political allies for GE15 is concerned.
He also pointed out Warisan could stand to suffer more losses than gains if the party sided with Mahathir, who he felt was a divisive figure both in Sabah and neighbouring Sarawak.
“By now, Warisan should realise that Mahathir was partly to be blamed for PH’s downfall.
Sabah UiTM’s Tony Paridi Bagang, however, disagreed with Romzi and Puyok, believing that Warisan will eventually opt to maintain its political alliance with PH but work with Pejuang at the same time.
“The Warisan-Pejuang cooperation can be seen as an attempt to be kingmakers in the coming polls,” he said.
Whether that is accepted by PH is another matter, he said, but as history has shown, anything is possible in Sabah politics.