PBS and Sabah STAR to ink deal for electoral cooperation

KOTA KINABALU: Two major non-Muslim native-base parties are set to sign a memorandum of understanding on seats to be contested in the coming Sabah election, which is due next year.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Sabah STAR leaders are scheduled to sign the memorandum of understanding, witnessed by Kadazandusun Huguan Siou (paramount leader) Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitinganat the Hongkod Koissan in Penampang on Thursday (April 18).

This comes after months of negotiations between the two parties who are hoping to strengthen their native bases in about 23 non-Muslim native majority areas of predominantly Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus communities.

PBS, led by Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, has handed over the reins of the party to his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam due to ill-health.

Sabah STAR, led by Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, has been working on a cooperation formula to strengthen their native political bases.

The two parties are part of the seven-member Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) ruling coalition government and are looking at ensuring that neither party clashes with each other in the next state elections.

In the 2020 Sabah elections, both parties fielded their own candidates who went up against GRS in certain constituencies.

PBS managed to win seven seats and Sabah STAR won six seats, with many blaming internal sabotage and animosity among supporters for GRS losses in several non-Muslim seats.

For some, the MOU is a forerunner towards efforts to unify non-Muslim native parties that emerged after the fall of the PBS-led state government under Pairin in 1994.

Sabah UiTM senior lecturer Tony Paridi Bagang said that the MOU aims to cement Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus support for PBS-Sabah STAR that leverages the combined grassroots backing of both parties," he said.

However, it could potentially complicate seat allocation for other GRS component parties like Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (PGRS) in non-Muslim native areas.

Similarly, he said Pakatan Harapan's native-based Upko may face similar hurdles in securing similar seats if GRS and Pakatan decide on an electoral pact.

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