KOTA KINABALU: The sudden decision by Parti Warisan Sabah's Sebatik assemblyman to leave the party has sparked speculation that more opposition lawmakers will cross over in support of the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) state government.
Hassan Gani Amir's overnight move placed pressure on Warisan as talk surfaced that GRS, led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, aims to secure a two-thirds majority of 53 representatives in the 79-member state assembly.
GRS and its partners currently command a comfortable 47 seats in the house through the coalition comprising Sabah Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and PAS, as well three independents.
Hassan's move to support GRS will make it 48, leaving it just five seats from the two-thirds majority needed for the ruling government to amend laws involving the state Constitution.
Political observers and analysts said Hassan's move came as a surprise to many as he was not among the "usual suspects" rumoured to be crossing over.
Observers said his move puts greater pressure on Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to hold on to his assemblymen.
"It has been Sabah's history that the winning party takes all. We have seen it since the days of Usno, Berjaya, PBS and Barisan where losing party assemblymen switched to the ruling side.
"It is a matter of time and 'what's the offer'," said a political observer who declined to be named.
However, other observers said the political situation at the federal level might hold back the more senior assemblymen while Hassan, a first-term assemblyman, might have been easier to convince.
In a Facebook post, Warisan deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking said the party was digging in, many of its members being familiar with the position of being in the opposition.
"As opposition representatives we have been through some challenges politically, but we never wavered to cross over to the government of the day despite all the shortcomings, demands, innuendoes, personal attacks and even fiscal enticement.
"We cannot negotiate or compromise what we were elected to be, more so as an individual," he said, adding that in the past numerous "friends" had left and criticised the party.
"I guess this is the way of life some profess and (for) some, unfortunately, had become a norm. We are taught to forgive (as it is divine) and we must, but we will never forget how they abandoned their cause easily more so when some cannot 'tahan' or bear to represent the cause as the opposition," he added in his post.
Hassan, who announced his resignation to national news agency Bernama on Thursday afternoon (Feb 25), has kept a low profile since then.