Unity for PBS, Sabah STAR

KOTA KINABALU: After months of negotiations, two major non-Muslim native-based parties are set to sign a historic memorandum of understanding (MOU) in a bid to seal cooperation in the Sabah election due next year.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Sabah STAR leaders will sign the MOU with Kadazandusun Huguan Siou (paramount leader) Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who is scheduled to witness it at the Hongkod Koisaan in Penampang on Thursday, according to a media invite.

The two parties are hoping to strengthen their native bases in 23 non-Muslim native-majority areas of predominantly ethnic Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus communities.

PBS, led by Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, who has handed the party reins to his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam, and Sabah STAR led by Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, who is a deputy chief minister, have been working on a 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 on the ground in the next state election.

In the 2020 snap state polls, both parties were widely seen to have sabotaged each other’s efforts, with some placing candidates against the GRS’ choice in certain constituencies.

PBS managed to snag seven seats while Sabah STAR won six, with many blaming internal sabotage and animosity among respective supporters on the ground for GRS losses in several non-Muslim state seats.

Senior PBS and Sabah STAR leaders are hoping the MOU will ensure both parties work together to strengthen their chances to win seats for the GRS coalition.

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

Sabah Universiti Teknologi Mara senior lecturer Tony Paridi Bagang said the MOU aims to cement Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus support for PBS-Sabah STAR, which leverages the combined grassroots backing of both parties.

“Collaborative ties between PBS-Sabah STAR may amplify their bargaining leverage,” he said.

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

Bagang pointed out that Pakatan Harapan’s native-based Upko may face hurdles in securing similar seats if GRS and Pakatan go into an electoral pact in the next state election.

“Once more, this situation will be the ultimate test for GRS to reach the most favourable decision and consensus regarding seat distribution,” he added.

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politics , sabah , pbs , sabah STAR , state election , MOU , seats


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