Hajiji stays afloat – until the next storm

Still standing: Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor will remain as Sabah Chief Minister for now after announcing a “unity government” with support from 44 members of the 79-member House. — Bernama

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor may have weathered the state’s political crisis and come out victorious, but the question now is – for how long?

The next storm to hit his government may not be too far off.

Hajiji’s decision to build a “unity government” on his terms proved Sabah’s “autonomy” but without the state’s bigger players – Sabah Barisan Nasional-Umno, Parti Warisan and Parti KDM – it will always remain fragile.

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He only has the backing of 44 seats in the 79-member House, four more than the 40 needed for a simple majority.

The number, however, includes five Barisan-Umno dissidents and seven from Pakatan Harapan.

“Taking into account the small (four-seat) majority, it all depends on the five Barisan-Umno assemblymen.

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“There is no guarantee that Hajiji’s tenure can last until the term ends in 2025,” said political observer Rahezzal Shah, who felt the attempt to unseat Hajiji as Chief Minister was not over.

Leaving out Sabah Barisan-Umno – led by Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin – and Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s Warisan will likely haunt the GRS-Pakatan partnership, said analyst Tony Paridi Bagang.

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“Political stability in the state remains uncertain unless Bung Moktar and his men, together with Warisan, accept the new line-up with an open heart,” he said.

Both Barisan and Warisan are working with Pakatan at the federal level, having joined Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in a unity government.

Hajiji has decided to move ahead with GRS-friendly partners – PAS and Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah (PHRS) – along with Sabah Pakatan as new partners to push the concept of a unity state government.

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Bagang, a Sabah UiTM lecturer, said Barisan-Umno and Warisan may even challenge the new Cabinet in court, referring to the latter’s argument that Hajiji’s position as Chief Minister was no longer legal under the Sabah constitution.

This is because he is without a party after he and 14 others quit Bersatu to become direct members of GRS on Dec 8.

“There is no guarantee of stability unless Bung Moktar and his gang accept the decision and move on.

“There must be political compromise for the sake of the people,” said Bagang.

Anwar, the national Pakatan chairman, had persuaded Hajiji to consider including all parties and setting up a unity government in the state.

“Anwar was just giving advice and it is up to the state leadership to listen to him or not. In the new line-up, Pakatan assemblymen are included,” said Rahezzal.

Sabah Pakatan chairman Datuk Christina Liew and Sabah DAP secretary Datuk Phoong Jin Zhe are now in the state Cabinet.

“The political temperature may dissipate temporarily, but Sabah does not have an anti-party hopping law.

“Political allegiances in the state have always been fluid, with politicians changing their support in the blink of an eye.

“The path ahead will be as bumpy as the roads in Sabah,” he quipped.

Questions also remain over how Barisan-Umno will deal with the five who went against the party’s stand and joined the new state government.

Bung Moktar and Shafie, meanwhile, have to learn a lesson about coming up with the “right and strong” narrative to unseat a Chief Minister.

“They need to ‘sell’ this to the public. Unfortunately, the justification given for this bid was poorly packaged – one that the public could not relate to. As a result, it didn’t gain traction,” said Rahezzal.

“Instead, they were ridiculed and condemned as power-hungry politicians who tried to replace the current government, just as Putrajaya empowered the state to approve any federal development project worth less than RM50mil.”

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) lecturer Dr Lee Kuok Tiung felt Hajiji’s Cabinet was an accommodating one, as it included a Deputy Chief Minister from Barisan-Umno.

“Anwar’s unity government only gave deputy minister positions to Sabah Barisan although they contributed six of Barisan’s 30 seats throughout Malaysia,” he added.

GRS now has 44 seats while Barisan, Warisan and KDM hold the remaining 35 seats.

Observers believe the ‘shopping’ for assemblymen will continue on both sides, raising the political temperature again, although it may seem to have cooled for now.

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