LEADERS from both sides of the political divide are ramping up their campaigning as Sabah’s 16th state election hit midway point with little indication of any party taking pole position.
Leaders have been criss-crossing the state to woo voters as they try to gain support in one of the state’s most crowded elections where 447 candidates, including 56 independents, are vying for the 73 seats at stake.
Political observers remain “unsure” of the pulse on the ground as undercurrents between friends run deep, offering few hints of any potential voter pattern, particularly in Muslim bumiputra and non-Muslim bumiputra areas.
Over the past 48 hours, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin weaved through southwestern Beaufort and Sipitang districts as well as northern Kota Marudu and Kota Belud to canvass support for the opposition Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS).
His message to the people is that for Sabah to be more successful, there is a need for a state government to be led by parties in alignment with the Perikatan Nasional-led Federal Government and parties allied to it.
As Muhyiddin shores up support for the GRS parties – comprising Sabah Barisan Nasional, Sabah Perikatan and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) – Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who is seeking a second term for the Warisan Plus state government, is fighting back.
Shafie, who is also zigzagging across the state, tells people that the Federal Government is constitutionally bound to honour its commitments to the state and different political affiliations should not stand in the way.
Bread-and-butter and socio-economic issues as well as testy and perennial migrant problems, the controversial Papar dam and other environmental matters among a host of localised concerns seem to have been buried as political focus remains on candidates and the intense direct and indirect contests among the parties.
Observers say much of the main opposition GRS’ fire has been bogged down by internal bickering among partners Barisan, Perikatan and PBS, which are contesting against each other in 17 seats.
Accusations of independents friendly to Perikatan are also creating uneasiness among the GRS partners.
Though Warisan and its partners Upko, DAP, PKR and Amanah seem to have an advantage due to the bickering on the Opposition’s side, observers note that they have yet to fully exploit the situation on the ground.
Observers also see other heavyweights trying to make a comeback, from former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman (Parti Cinta Sabah), former Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia (Usno) and ex-chief minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat (Liberal Democratic Party), needing to pick up momentum before the Sept 26 polling date.
In the meantime, Umno’s big guns, including former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, have been on the stump in support of the party’s Barisan’s candidates.
Apart from Umno, Barisan is being represented by MCA and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah whose candidates are working hard to win the hearts and minds of voters.
PKR’s Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng are among the national political stalwarts joining in the action to campaign for candidates aligned to Shafie’s Warisan.
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