KOTA KINABALU: While Sabah Umno and the state’s ruling party, Parti Warisan Sabah, are set to lock horns over the Kimanis Parlia-mentary seat, all eyes are watching to see if Datuk Seri Anifah Aman will contest as an independent.
The Election Commission (EC) has set Jan 18 for the by-election and most political parties in the state have no issues with the 14-day campaign period.
But questions remain. Will other parties enter the fray?
Anifah, who left Umno four months after the May 2018 general election, has previously hinted that he might not contest.
Some people close to Anifah – who is the younger brother of former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman – said he wanted to concentrate on working with other locally-based parties to push for greater state rights ahead of the next general election, due in three years.
Others said the former foreign minister may contest if Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), led by Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili, and Sabah STAR, led by Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan, along with other local opposition parties decide to put up a united front.
“I will let you know, ” Anifah said in a WhatsApp message when asked if he had decided to contest.
Anifah held the Kimanis seat from 1999 until the 2018 General Election when an election court nullified his narrow 156-vote majority.
The Federal Court recently upheld the decision to declare Anifah’s victory in Kimanis “null and void” due to discrepancies in the election process.
Meanwhile, Ongkili said his party had yet to decide whether to contest and was still studying “ground sentiments”.
When contacted, Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said they would announce their candidate for Kimanis on Dec 28.
He said Sabah Umno had been preparing for the by-election to retain the Umno stronghold.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had given the blessings for Warisan to contest the by-election.
“I have told Dr Mahathir about Sabah Pakatan’s decision on candidacy. He has agreed and said that they (Pakatan) will support (Warisan), ” said Shafie, who is also Warisan president.
Warisan, which is not a member of Pakatan, leads the Sabah government in a coalition with DAP, PKR, Bersatu and Sabah Amanah.
Umno is expected to field former Bongowan assemblyman Datuk Mohamad Alamin, the Kimanis Umno division chief.
Kimanis, which has two state seats – Bongawan and Membakut – has about 68% Muslim bumiputra voters of mainly ethnic Brunei, Bisaya and Bajau communities.
Some 25% of the voters are made up of non-Muslim bumiputras of mainly ethnic Kadazandusuns, while the remaining 7% were Chinese and others.
Earlier in Putrajaya, EC chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun said the EC had not been instructed to stop the by-election in view of Anifah’s application for the Federal Court’s decision to be reviewed.
“So in accordance with our laws, we have a task to fill up this Parliament vacancy within 60 days. So by law we must have an election before Feb 27 next year, and we are proceeding with it, ” Azhar told reporters after announcing the Kimanis by-election date at EC headquarters.
Nomination has been set for Jan 4, with early voting set for Jan 14.
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