KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau staged an upset to retain the Tuaran parliamentary seat after beating favourite Datuk Joniston Bangkuai from Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) in GE15.
The Upko president’s chances of keeping the semi-rural seat for a second consecutive term seemed bleak at first but it was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who helped turn the momentum in favour of Tangau.
Tangau, who stood as a Pakatan Harapan candidate, defeated the Parti Bersatu Sabah information chief, the closest contender in the six-cornered fight, with a razor-thin majority of 233 votes.
"For Tuaran, the momentum really started when Anwar came for the Sabah Pakatan candidates’ announcement in Tuaran on Oct 31," he said, when contacted Sunday (Nov 20).
Tangau said he was aware that defending the seat would be tough, with Bangkuai, who is also Kiulu assemblyman, having the backing of Sabah Chief Minister and GRS chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
Hajiji (who is also Sulaman assemblyman), Bangkuai, Tamparuli assemblyman Datuk Jahid Jahim and Barisan Nasional's Pantai Dalit assemblyman Datuk Jasnih Daya (whose state constituencies form the Tuaran parliamentary constituency) were looking to unseat Tangau from the Tuaran seat.
"We were aware of the task but the fight against corruption was quite strong, especially with Anwar being the symbol of the fight and as the prime minister candidate," he said.
Tangau polled 24,943 votes against Bangkuai’s 24,710 with Parti Warisan’s Joanna Rampas coming in third after collecting 5,728 votes, among others.
Tuaran was one of the hot seats in Sabah as the knives were out against Tangau who was seen as a traitor when he decided to pull Upko out of Barisan and partnered with Warisan and Pakatan, hours after GE14 in 2018.
Bangkuai had also successfully defended the Kiulu seat with a majority of 1,221 votes against Tangau in the 2020 Sabah polls.
"I’m very happy but this is actually the people’s victory," Tangau said.
Tangau and Bangkuai were close allies when Upko and PBS were still part of Barisan prior to GE14 but they fell out with each other after Upko ditched the coalition and sided with Warisan and Pakatan to form the state government then.
Public fallout for Upko could also be seen in the 2020 Sabah polls when the party, then part of the Warisan Plus pact, lost all but one of the 12 seats it contested.
Upko, which became a Pakatan component in August 2021, was earlier written off by political observers in GE15 but seemed to have made a revival due to Tangau's victory as well as the incoming president Datuk Ewon Benedick's win in the Penampang seat, which was previously held by Warisan deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking.