KOTA KINABALU: A constitutional poser is arising over the 13 new state seats that were gazetted by Sabah in 2016.
With Parliament yet to approve the changes that will allow the Election Commission (EC) to use the seats in the coming general election, the question in political and legal circles is whether it is then constitutionally legal to use just the existing 60 seats, instead of 73.
Foremost is the issue that the Sabah constitution requires elections to be held for 73 state assembly seats.
Parti Bersatu Sabah deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said that from a legal perspective, Sabah might have to repeal the gazetted amendments to the state constitution.
"Legal experts say that if Parliament does not approve the new seats, Sabah will have to withdraw the changes to the constitution," Dr Ongkili told reporters on Monday (Jan 22) after launching a Sabah Electricity open day event at a shopping mall here.
It is also believed that the general election results could be disputed in court if Parliament does not endorse the changes in time, or Sabah does not repeal the gazetted amendments in its constitution.
Word from within Sabah Barisan Nasional circles, however, suggests that the local leadership is not keen on using the additional seats for the coming polls.
But PBS and Upko are, nevertheless, pushing for the new seats to be endorsed even as other Barisan partners, including Sabah Umno, feel that the distribution of the seats among the nine Sabah Barisan component parties poses problems.
The EC has, meanwhile, said that Sabah can only use the new seats once they are endorsed by Parliament.
Dr Ongkili, who is carrying out the duties of PBS president with incumbent Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan retiring, said he was not sure whether the new seats for Sabah would be tabled during the Parliament meeting in March, when the redelineation of electoral boundaries for Peninsular Malaysia is expected to be debated.
"We should go for (the new seats) as (the changes) have been passed by the state assembly and are expected by the rakyat. We should just proceed through the system," the Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister said.
He said that in the Barisan spirit, the seats could be allocated equally once the component parties meet with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
"No one should take all," he said, adding that Barisan stood in a good position to win all the new seats the coming general election as well as regain the seats lost in 2013.