Reports by Muguntan Vanar, Philip Golingai, Stephanie Lee and Kristy Inus. Pix by ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE
BEAUFORT: Barisan Nasional showed that it is still a force to be reckoned with in Sabah as it defended the Kimanis parliamentary seat by a handsome majority of 2,029 votes.
Barisan candidate Datuk Mohamad Alamin retained its traditional stronghold by securing 12,706 votes against Parti Warisan Sabah candidate Datuk Karim Bujang’s 10,677 in a hotly contested battle.
The win is Barisan’s fifth out of 10 by-elections held nationwide since the general election on May 9,2018.
“It is the people’s victory. It is a victory for all Sabahans, ” Sabah Umno chief Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin declared last night.
He said that it was also a message by Sabahans to the Warisan government whom he said had failed to administer the state well and its failure to listen to the people’s objections to the controversial Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS) for Filipino war refugees in Sabah.
“This is the beginning of Umno and Barisan in Sabah to work together with the local opposition front to retake the state, ” he said in thanking MCA, Sabah STAR, Parti Bersatu Sabah, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah and former Kimanis MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman for the victory.
Cheers of “radu tetap radu” (the fight must continue) and a song thanking people for voting Barisan were heard after the official results were announced at about 9.29pm.
Mohamad also thanked former Anifah for supporting his campaign.
“To my opponent Karim, who has shown maturity in politics, we often stumbled upon each other in a cordial manner. I am grateful for this win, ” he added.
The result shocked observers who were anticipating a close finish of less than a 500-vote majority either way, with Warisan having a slight edge.
The Warisan-led state government’s hopes for Kimanis was bolstered by Membakut assemblyman Datuk Mohd Ariffin Ariff, who left Umno to join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Sabah after Bersatu spread its wings to the state last April in a move that took in nearly all senior Sabah Umno leaders.
The Warisan defeat comes on the heels of an intense campaign against the government’s plan to issue PSS, while Sabah Umno projected itself as an autonomous outfit in its bid to reset its power base in Sabah.
“The people have spoken. I accept the people’s verdict, ” Karim said.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who was with party members at the Warisan war room in Bongawan town, did not give any response as at press time.
Barisan chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the win was a manifestation of the autonomy given to Sabah Umno.
“This has been translated well, towards making Umno relevant, and I think this recognition not only resembles the sentiment of Kimanis folk but Sabah voters in general, ” he said.
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the victory would see the rise of Barisan again in Sabah.
“Many seemed to have written off Barisan but the result clearly shows the aspirations of voters in Kimanis and Sabah as a whole, ” he said.
In Kuala Lumpur, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong thanked the Kimanis voters for keeping their faith with Barisan.
“What is more heartening is that Barisan’s majority in the Kimanis by-election is bigger than in GE14, ” he said.
Dr Wee, who had campaigned in the parliamentary by-election, also thanked all involved in the Barisan election machinery.
The win is expected to boost Barisan in rebuilding itself in Sabah, a bastion which it lost in the last general election.
It is set to dent Warisan’s grip on the 20-month-old state government that is formed by Warisan and coalition partners Pakatan Harapan and Upko.
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