SANDAKAN: As the campaigning enters the half-way mark, the battle for Muslim votes between main contenders DAP and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) gains momentum.
PBS, despite having a slow start, is having a packed schedule this weekend in localities with a Muslim majority.
The local PBS candidate Datuk Linda Tsen, a former two-term MP, will visit several Muslim majority areas such as Kampung Sim Sim, Pulau Berhala and Sandakan town.
Her walkabout to Kampung Sim Sim yesterday was warmly received by locals, supported by her party machinery and its healthy mix of different local ethnicities.
Locals were seen excitedly rushing to shake her hands, hug and take pictures with her.
Kampung Sim Sim consisted roughly 63% Muslims, 22% Chinese and 15% others.
PBS is set to have another walkabout in Kampung Sim Sim today before departing to Pulau Berhala in the afternoon.
Pulau Berhala has about 4,300 registered voters and nearly 68% of them are Muslims.
The Sandakan parliamentary seat has about 40,000 voters, comprising 51% Chinese and 45% Muslim bumiputeras.
The rest of the electorate is mostly Kadazandusun and others.
Political observers expected a turnout of 60% in the May 11 polls, taking into account political fatigue and disinterest, while outstation voters were less likely to return.
DAP has brought in Sabah Chief Minister and Parti Warisan Sabah president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, of Bajau descent, to woo Muslim votes.Shafie’s visit to Kampung Sim Sim yesterday evening was warmly received by locals but it was still left to be seen if it would be translated into votes for DAP’s Vivian Wong.
Last week, there were hardly 100 people when DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang spoke during a gathering in Kampung Sim Sim.
Wong may have also alienated Muslim voters after a picture of her cleaning up a Muslim cemetery last Sunday drew flak on social media.
Experience will also play a factor given that Tsen is a former two-term Batu Sapi MP while Wong is a first-timer, riding on the popularity of her late father Datuk Stephen Wong, the incumbent two-term Sandakan MP.
“Voters need to decide if they want the status quo or go for a young and bold leader,” Bagang said.