KOTA KINABALU: Umno is ready to go all out to take back the Kimanis parliamentary seat if the Federal Court upholds an Election Court decision to declare the 2018 election result for the constituency null and void.
Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said Sabah Umno would begin immediate preparation of its machinery for Kimanis, which was an Umno seat held by Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, who defected to become an independent after the May 2018 general election.
“We respect the court's decision and the due process of a possible appeal against the decision. We will wait for the final decision.
“However, Sabah Umno must take immediate preparatory steps to get the machinery on the ground ready if a by-election is to happen, ” he told reporters after opening the annual general meeting for the Tuaran Umno division headed Datuk Seri Rahman Dahlan.
He advised Sabah Umno leaders to pick a candidate without any baggage and who was acceptable to the people.
In the event of a by-election, he said Umno expected local opposition Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which is part of the Sabah Opposition bloc, to return the favour to Umno by supporting their candidate as was done in the Sandakan by-election.
Umno supported PBS' candidate in that by-election.
“Sandakan was not an Umno seat; it was represented by a fellow Barisan party then.
But Kimanis is Umno's, and we must get ready whether there is a by-election or not.
“It is quid quo pro (favour for favour), ” he said when asked about the possibility of other local-based opposition parties contesting the by-election in the south-western Sabah seat that was an Umno stronghold prior to the last general election.
The opposition bloc should respect that Kimanis was an Umno seat, he said, adding: “I don’t think they will be interested in Kimanis.”
He said he had asked Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and other leaders, including Rahman, to work with the other opposition parties.
“The seat is an Umno base. We can work to win it back, ” he said when asked about Umno's strength in the area since most of its former leaders had moved to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Warisan Sabah while Anifah himself remained independent.
Mohamad said the exit of many former party “warlords” had rejuvenated Umno in Sabah as younger leaders who were suppressed by the old guard were now emerging and strengthening the party.
He said with Sabah Umno set to get autonomy, the party would further strengthen in Sabah and play a pivotal role in giving Barisan Nasional a chance to win back the federal government.
“We can win over nine states in Peninsular Malaysia but Sabah needs to be strengthened to win back the federal government.
"Kimanis will be an important test, ” he said, noting that Pakatan Harapan was facing the same voter resentment Barisan felt before GE14.
Anifah, who won the seat by 156 votes against Warisan’s Datuk Karim Bujang, is expected to appeal within 14 days of the Aug 16 Election Court decision to nullify the Kimanis election result after finding more than 300 votes were improperly cast, among other irregularities.
The Election Commission and its returning officer, who were also found to have not complied with the due of process of the law under Section 32 (b) of the Election Offences Act 1954, said that they would not be appealing.