Battle for votes heats up


Hello there: Mohd Shafie (centre) greeting patrons of a coffeeshop during the walkabout at the Kim Fung market in Sandakan. — Bernama

SANDAKAN: Larger Chinese crowds are appearing at DAP ceramah over the past two days as the momentum for tomorrow’s by-­election picked up heat as the loose alliance of opposition parties is pushing harder for Datuk Linda Tsen of Parti Bersatu Sabah.

Parti Warisan Sabah president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal moved into the Muslim bumiputra majority areas to shore up DAP as PBS’ partners Umno and Usno pushed to draw support from the 18,000-strong ethnic Bajau, Sungai and Bugis communities.

With Muslim bumiputras seen to be fast becoming the kingmakers in the heated race for Sandakan, DAP is also pushing to draw out the 20,000 Chinese voters in the constituency over the last 48 hours.

“I believe Muslim bumiputras are with DAP candidate (Vivian Wong). They are not used to voting Rocket but we have rationalised with them that voting DAP was supporting Warisan,” Mohd Shafie said.

“The Chinese are supporting the candidate whose father was well known, she is approachable and she speaks well.

“They are giving us a chance. People are happy with her,” he said, adding that the community was hoping that the economy to improve.

Mohd Shafie, who was in Pulau Berhala earlier yesterday, also conducted a walkabout in the Chinese-dominated Kim Fung market a day after he spent time explaining the state government economic directions at ceramah late on Wednesday.

In efforts to turn the tide against the DAP, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan met up with Sandakan Umno members on Wednesday night during a ceramah where he called on party members to stay strong as their defeat in GE14 was a temporary setback.

He said they should support PBS and gave assurance that Sabah Umno would become autonomous by year-end to carry out its task as a totally Sabah-based political entity that would work autonomously from the central party.

Sabah Umno chairman Datuk Bung Moktar Radin said they already identified 6,500 of the 9,700 voters in the Sandakan constituency and were now working to mobilise the voters for polling day.

“We are still intact,” he said when asked whether Sabah Umno was crumbling after top leaders left the party last December for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia which spread its wings to Sabah on April 6.

He said the grassroots were still together with Umno and was confident of retaining their support although there were views that the Umno grassroots shifted to Warisan and other parties in the state coalition government.

A trump card Umno will be using is former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s visit here today.

He is expected at a walkabout at the Giant Supermarket area here as local Umno leaders believe he will swing Muslim bumiputra votes to Tsen.

Asked about the move to bring in Najib, Mohd Shafie smiled and said that in GE14, Najib was brought into his home base in Semporna but that failed to oust him (Mohd Shafie).

“In fact, I got more votes than before,” said Mohd Shafie, who was once a friend of Najib in Umno.

Both Tsen and Wong are in a five-cornered tussle for the Sandakan seat left vacant after two-term MP Datuk Stephen Wong passed away on March 28.

The constituency has 40,131 eligible voters.

It is estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 voters are believed to be from Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur or Singa­pore.

DAP is worried that these people might not return home and it will reduce its majority of about 10,000 compared to GE14.


   

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