SANDAKAN: Sabah DAP is going into the Sandakan by-election with an edge but can expect a stiff fight from an unprecedented united opposition front with the local-based Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) taking them on.
As nominations closed at 10am yesterday, DAP’s Vivian Wong would face off with PBS’ Datuk Linda Tsen in a five-cornered fight.
The three independents are widely seen as spoilers in Pakatan Harapan’s hope to stop their losing streak.
Wong, the youngest daughter of the late incumbent MP Datuk Stephen Wong, would be riding on her father’s legacy and party’s strength to retain the seat for DAP, which is facing various degrees of disillusionment ranging from poor economy to broken promises of state rights.
Amid bread and butter issues, analysts foresee that DAP will need to work harder to quell a new united opposition comprising Sabah Umno, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku Rakyat Sabah, Sabah Progressive Party, Usno Baru and other smaller parties.
Sabah Umno, whose members turned up in PBS T-shirts for the nomination, could tip the scales by capturing the Muslim bumiputra in the constituency of 39,349 voters.
“We have some 7,000 members voting in Sandakan. We will be able to deliver the votes for PBS,” Sabah Umno chairman Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said.
Bung Moktar, who turned up to support Tsen, said their members were from various divisions in the east coast districts of Kinabatangan, Beluran, Libaran and Batu Sapi.
“They are registered voters in Sandakan. We will mobilise them to support PBS,” he added.
Sabah DAP will be banking on its state coalition partner Parti Warisan Sabah, led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, to deliver the Muslim votes for Wong.
The task, according to observers, would be difficult as local sentiment rides high, giving an advantage to PBS against the national-based DAP.
PBS is banking on “independent-minded” Sandakan voters, known to vote against the establishment.Both Wong, 30, and Tsen, 63, need to work hard as local sentiments alone are unlikely to earn support.
Others in the race as independents are former Sabah PAS and later Sabah Amanah chairman Hamzah Abdullah, 65, businessman Chia Siew Yung, 45, and former political worker Sulaiman Abdul Samat, 36.