Warisan, Umno pact viable for Sabah polls but needs Pakatan's blessing, says analyst

KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan and Umno have to work with each other for the next Sabah state election, says an analyst.

Although the parties have been on opposing sides, Universiti Malaya associate professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi says that he believes the political equation is the most logical considering the reach and support of both Warisan and Umno in the state.

He said it is impossible for one single party to form the state government, hence, Warisan and Umno need each other at the state level.

“The Warisan-Umno pact is a viable one because both parties have the same political enemy which is Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor who is also the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) chairman,” said the sociopolitical analyst.

“To be honest, Warisan and Umno do not have a choice. Warisan can work with Umno but the pact needs the blessing from Pakatan Harapan first because this will determine the areas to be contested and the seat allocation,” he added.

Awang Azman added that one possible stumbling block in achieving this is who will get the chief minister’s seat in the event they manage to topple the five-party GRS.

Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal held the position from 2018 to 2020.

“Umno will also be interested to assume the seat. It will be difficult for both parties to move forward if there is no clear and common consent on this matter,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after a Warisan event in Putatan near here last Sunday (March 19), Shafie said the party will not go into the next state election alone, disclosing they were now evaluating suitable parties to form a strong partnership.

The Semporna MP said Warisan is making a detailed assessment to ensure the party partners to be chosen would be able to lead the same struggle for the people of Sabah and that the cooperation could last for a long period.

“It is true that some parties have been identified including Umno at the state level but we have not decided anything yet (for cooperation) at this time.

“There are also many local parties (for cooperation) which we will announce when the time comes,” said Shafie, who is also the Senallang assemblyman.

Warisan and Sabah Barisan Nasional-Umno, along with Parti KDM led by Datuk Peter Anthony, were part of a failed coup to unseat the GRS government in January.

There was a real possibility the state government could have changed hands but Hajiji, who is also the Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah president, managed to hold on to power thanks to support from several Umno dissident assemblymen and seven Sabah Pakatan elected representatives.

Following the failed attempt, political observers said Shafie and Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin had lost considerable political clout. Parti KDM has also since returned its backing to Hajiji as the chief minister.

Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi Mara Sabah senior lecturer Dr Firdausi Suffian said it was once unimaginable that Warisan and Umno could work together but the country’s current political environment has rendered that argument untenable.

“It’s difficult nowadays to predict which party will work with another party. We heard last time that Warisan will not work with Umno but early this year both tried and failed in the coup against GRS.

“We also cannot imagine (previously) that Pakatan will ever work with Umno post 15th General Election (GE15),” he said.

On the question whether Warisan and Umno was a good fit was irrelevant, he added, as it all boiled down to the numbers game.

“That is which party can form the government. If Sabah Barisan does not have the numbers, Warisan may not want to work with them and vice versa.

“Also, even a small party can become kingmakers for example like Sabah STAR,” Firdausi said, referring to the events post 2018 general election.

At the time, Warisan-Pakatan were tied with Sabah Barisan at 29 seats each but Sabah STAR led by Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, considered an opposition party then, threw the two seats it won to Sabah Barisan allowing them to form the government.

Warisan, however, later formed the state government after defections from Sabah Barisan.

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