Gagasan Rakyat boosts Sabah’s bid for Borneo bloc, say analysts

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s push for a strong Borneo bloc could be strengthened with the relaunching of Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Gagasan Rakyat), said analysts.

The little-known party shot to prominence last month after Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor (pic) announced the takeover of the political outfit, which contested without success in the 2020 snap state election.

Dr Firdausi Suffian of Sabah Universiti Teknologi Mara said this will enable the five-party Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition, which Hajiji heads, to consist of only local-based parties.

A solid coalition or partnership of local parties mattered, he noted, taking Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) – made up of only local parties in Sarawak – as an example.

ALSO READ: Local-based Gagasan to be new 'home' for ex-Sabah Bersatu members, says Hajiji

“They work together, hence they ... have higher bargaining power (with the Federal Government),” said the political economy senior lecturer.

“Therefore, Gagasan Rakyat under GRS has to work together to maintain political momentum and show that the coalition is an important political bloc representing Sabah’s interests."

Gagasan Rakyat will be the new political vehicle for Hajiji, the former Sabah Bersatu chief, and other assemblymen and leaders who quit the party en masse following GE15 last year.

Hajiji had previously said the takeover would be formalised soon, adding that Gagasan Rakyat was admitted into GRS on Dec 9.

The GRS coalition also includes Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Sabah STAR, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and United Sabah National Organisation (Usno).

ALSO READ: Four GRS MPs to remain direct members, not joining Hajiji in Gagasan Rakyat

Firdausi pointed out that with decentralisation of powers and more autonomy given to Sabah, GRS has to show it can deliver and build trust among voters.

“It has to outline the state's demands more aggressively, like GPS.

“This will build confidence among Sabahans and also show the Borneo bloc's strength to bargain with the Federal Government,” he said.

He said the recent political crisis triggered after Sabah Barisan Nasional-Umno pulled its support for GRS, showed that the previous governing arrangement was actually a shaky one.

But after the move to unseat Hajiji’s government failed, it somehow temporarily consolidated GRS’ position, he added.

“So they have the numbers now. But they have to show they can deliver all their policies under the Sabah Maju Jaya (SMJ) development plan and the other decentralisation negotiations with Putrajaya,” Firdausi said.

ALSO READ: Sabah Bersatu doesn't expect another exodus to Hajiji's new Gagasan Rakyat ()

Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer Dr Romzi Ationg believed that Gagasan Rakyat will be able to make political inroads despite being new and little-known previously.

“Judging from the growing sentiment (towards) Sabah-based parties and the attitude of Sabahans who are always interested in supporting the party which forms the government, I can say Gagasan Rakyat may be able to gain support from the people.

“Nevertheless, Hajiji needs to improve federal-state relations to prevent any political problem.

“Most importantly, such a move is required to ensure Gagasan Rakyat’s survival against the national parties (in Sabah),” he said.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, also believed it appeared that new or previously unknown parties in Sabah could gather support quickly with well-known political personalities at the helm.

However, he said, it remained to be seen if Gagasan Rakyat would be able to win over more supporters than national parties in the state.

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