KOTA KINABALU: The plot to unseat Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor is as good as over with the Chief Minister seeming to have got a full political grip on Sabah.
With a potpourri of friendly assemblymen from rival parties backing him, the bid by Sabah Barisan Nasional led by Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, who is state Umno chief, Parti Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal and Parti KDM’s Peter Anthony is widely seen to have died out – at least for now.
Over the three weeks since the Jan 6 coup attempt, Hajiji has been building what some analysts call his own brand of unity government, bringing in Sabah Pakatan Harapan and dissidents from Sabah Barisan-Umno among others friendly to his side.
Having replaced Bung Moktar as deputy chief minister with Barisan dissident Datuk Shahelmey Yahya, Hajiji kept clear from working with Bung Moktar’s Barisan-Umno and state Opposition Warisan and KDM, which are all part of the Federal Government.
Hajiji’s position as Chief Minister will become undisputed with him officially taking over as president of Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Gagasan Rakyat) that will see all former Sabah Bersatu leaders joining him.
Political analyst Rahezzal Shah agrees that Hajiji seems to have quelled attempts to oust him for now as the public frowned at the bid by Barisan-Warisan-KDM to topple his government.
“I’m sure Hajiji’s opponents will lie low temporarily and regroup in the coming months,” he said.
However, Rahezzal believes that there is a high likelihood Hajiji will call for an early state election to obtain a more comfortable mandate.
Hajiji, he feels, will first strengthen his new political vehicle Gagasan Rakyat with the grassroots.
“Once the party is organised and operational, he might call a state election as early as the first quarter of next year,” said Rahezzal, a political science lecturer in Sabah Universiti Teknologi Mara.
Sabah is not due for elections until October 2025.
Rahezzal said Hajiji’s move to bring in leaders like Parti Cinta Sabah president Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and Parti Bersatu Sabah president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili was more of a compromise.
“The Hajiji government at the moment is not a unity government, but rather a compromise government.
“Obviously, this is nothing more than a political reward for presidents of two political parties in Sabah.
“One for Ongkili whose party is one of the components within the state coalition Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), and the other for Anifah whose party has applied to join GRS and is awaiting approval,” he added.
He said the appointment of Ongkili as Sabah Energy Commission chairman was understandable as he had lost the Kota Marudu seat in the 15th General Election last November.
“But Anifah’s appointment is perhaps a way to pacify Anifah whose party is yet to be accepted into GRS,” Rahezzal said, referring to his appointment as Sabah’s adviser for international relations and foreign investments.
Anifah is a former federal foreign minister.
On Jan 6, Bung Moktar pulled out Sabah Barisan’s support for Hajiji, stating that his position as Chief Minister was against the Sabah constitution because he was no longer the leader of a political party. Hajiji left Sabah Bersatu on Dec 8.
The GRS government was on the brink of collapse but Hajiji gained the support of seven Sabah Pakatan assemblymen and four Barisan-Umno dissidents and a Barisan-friendly assemblyman to command a 44-seat majority in the 79-seat state assembly.
Following the crisis, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim asked Hajiji to build a unity government at the state level.
Earlier this week, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he would talk to Hajiji and asked all parties not to make further statements that could provoke the political situation.