Seat sharing will be prudent

All hands on deck: Ahmad Zahid flanked by top Barisan leaders launching the Sabah Barisan convention in Penampang.

KOTA KINABALU: Barisan Nasional does not want to be politically cornered on seat sharing with its state partner Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) for the coming general polls, says Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The Barisan chairman noted the coalition would be extra cautious with regard to negotiations on seat sharing with GRS for the coming polls to avoid what had transpired in Sabah, resulting in snap state polls in September 2020.

“This is because of what happened during the state election when we were (politically) cornered. I don’t think we should be experiencing another political cornering. It would not benefit us. So, we have to be more careful.

“We would want the upper hand,” Ahmad Zahid told reporters after launching the Sabah Barisan convention in Penampang yesterday.

Asked if he meant the political cornering referred to the appointment of the chief minister following the snap polls, Ahmad Zahid said: “It wasn’t the case but there ‘were other issues’.”

Although Sabah Barisan lobbied for the chief minister’s position after the party won more seats than Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) in the polls, the post was eventually handed over to Sabah Bersatu state chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.

This was said to have been done to ensure that GRS remained in power after the state polls that year.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Umno president, said Barisan would be amending its constitution to recognise Sabah Barisan as an entity on its own, akin to what was done for Sabah Umno.

He said the proposal would need approval from the Barisan supreme council first.

“But Sabah Barisan won’t have the same autonomy that Sabah Umno has,” he said, adding that the national leadership would have a say on candidacy for the general election.

The Bagan Datoh MP said the amendment would allow Sabah Barisan to have its own committee structure and an election manifesto specific for the state compared to Barisan’s national manifesto in the peninsula.

On working with GRS for the coming general election, Ahmad Zahid said he would leave it to Sabah Barisan’s chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin to decide.

When asked, Bung said they were still talking to their allies in GRS but kept mum on details.

“We have five options. It’s a strategy,” he said without elaborating further.

Ahmad Zahid also disclosed that four parties, including one from Sabah, had applied to join Barisan but the coalition had yet to make its decision.

The one-day Barisan convention was aimed at strengthening and preparing the coalition partners for the coming elections.

Several Barisan leaders, including Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, spoke during the event, focusing on the party’s direction for Sabah.

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