SANDAKAN: The political climate is picking up steam in the sleepy town of Sandakan as the May 11 polls draw closer with the two main contenders, representing DAP and PBS, going neck and neck.
The first week of campaigning saw both parties engaging in a public tiff over a controversial billboard, which claimed that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had threatened Sandakan voters.
The billboard was taken down following a police report lodged by DAP.
However, a defiant PBS hung a banner shortly after, with a Chinese text that read: “In big trouble, slammed again?”, which apparently hints at a swear word in the Hakka dialect.
Both parties also took a dig at each other on the political legacy in Sandakan, with PBS highlighting a need for check and balance while DAP raised questions on Datuk Linda Tsen’s track record as the former two-term Batu Sapi MP.
DAP’s Vivian Wong steered clear from making personal attacks, leaving the campaigning to be carried out by the party machinery.
With a wealth of experience, Tsen too preferred a more gentleman’s approach and did not resort to belittling Wong, a political newbie.
Both candidates were actually unwilling politicians as they were thrust into the political sphere following the passing of Wong’s father and Tsen’s husband.
With polls just days away, Pakatan Harapan is set to bring in several big names, including Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and her husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the PKR president, to support Wong’s campaign.
Anwar is set to attend an Iftar event in Sandakan on May 7 while Dr Wan Azizah is expected to speak at a ceramah today.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer and political researcher Dr Zaini Othman said DAP’s Wong seemed to be in a pole position.
“But Chinese voters are still adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach.
“It would be a moral defeat if DAP fails to maintain its 10,000-vote majority in last year’s polls,” he said.
Tony Paridi Bagang, a lecturer at the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies at UiTM Sabah, said the fight was between DAP and PBS, adding that Chinese votes would be a decisive factor.
“Muslim votes might be split but considering that Sandakan is a DAP stronghold, this is a factor to influence voters here.
“However, it should not underestimate PBS as the voters are still observing the candidates,” he said.