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Sabah election off to a bad start

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s political alliances on both sides of the divide are breaking up barely 48 hours before nomination day as parties began naming candidates for the state’s snap election.

Cracks are immediately obvious in the opposition alliance of Sabah Perikatan Nasional, Sabah Barisan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) as party leaders began naming candidates for the same seats yesterday.

It is clear that it is an “open war” on the opposition side while “fissures” appeared in Warisan Plus where Sabah PKR at first held back its participation and only agreed to the seat-sharing deal later in the evening.

Barring any “resolution” to their overlapping claims by the Sept 12 nomination date, Sabah’s 16th state election is likely to become messier as the fluid political situation might change its shape and form again and again.

The heart of the overlap is in at least five of 73 state seats – mainly of non-Muslim bumiputra majority (ethnic Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus seats).

Barisan parties – Sabah Umno and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) – are asking for the seats wanted by Perikatan’s Sabah STAR and ally PBS.

The overlapping of seats is raising questions about whether the issue can be resolved.

Sabah Barisan chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said they were open to a “friendly contest” while Sabah Bersatu chief Datuk Hajiji Mohd Noor was hoping that all parties would compromise and allow for a straight fight.

PBS, which was supposed to announce its candidates, cancelled the planned announcement, with party officials saying that it was important to hold further discussions.

However, in a press statement late last night, PBS confirmed that it was contesting 15 seats including five of the seats that Barisan said it would be contesting.

Based on the list of candidates released, Sabah Bersatu and its Perikatan partner Sabah Progressive Party maintained their share of the agreed seats and are not seen as stepping into other territories.

“Basically, the problem is with Perikatan and its friendly parties that have not backed off in their demands. Now we have 24 hours to sort it out or it might be a free-for-all,” said a senior leader from the coalition.

The Warisan Plus coalition led by caretaker Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is also facing a “revolt”, with PKR not accepting the seven seats allocated to the national party.

Though Sabah PKR chief Datuk Christina Liew was at the naming of the Warisan Plus candidates at the Sabah International Convention Centre here, she slipped away without giving a clue about PKR’s position.

Warisan Plus has set aside seven seats for PKR, and the rest of the seats are shared by Warisan (46), Upko (12), DAP (seven) and Sabah Amanah (one).

According to the Warisan Plus candidate list, there are seven overlapping seat demands by PKR in the constituencies of Pintasan, Kemabong, Segama, Limbahau, Sungai Manila, Membakut and Petagas.

PKR had clashed with Warisan in the constituencies of Pintasan, Segama, Limbahau, Sungai Manila, Membakut and Petagas, while it overlapped with Upko in the Kemabong seat.

“We are quite prepared for whatever consequences we might face in this election,” said Shafie.

He said that all must focus on winning the election and it was not about “dignity of the party” but the chances of winning.

“I have told Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who came to my house, that I gave the party many seats the last time but they only won two.

“This is not the time for us to give away seats, this is the season to win the election,” reiterated Shafie, whose relations with Anwar had soured when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad named him as a potential prime minister candidate from Pakatan Harapan.

By late evening yesterday, Liew, together with the State Leadership Council, reached a consensus with Warisan to contest in seven seats – Matunggong, Tempasuk, Tamparuli, Inanam, Api Api, Klias and Sook.

The decision was accepted and endorsed by the PKR president and the party’s secretary-general to support the decision of the local leaders in the best interests of Sabah, she said in a statement.

“We are pleased to join forces with Warisan, DAP, Upko and Amanah in ensuring that we remain a strategic, stable and cohesive unit in defending the will and mandate of the people.

“Although the decision at this stage is to use our own PKR logo, we hope the voters of Sabah will continue to give their support to this alliance,” she said.

Hopefully, things will get clearer in the next 24 hours.

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