Perikatan on a collision course in Sabah polls

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin flies the Jalur Gemilang during a meet and greet session with locals at PPR Taman Sri Keramat, Putatan Saturday. --fotoBERNAMA (2020) COPYRIGHTS RESERVED

It’s set to be a ‘democrazy’ time in the Sabah state elections as many candidates are hit with surprise multi-cornered fights.

“LANGGAR” (break or breach) is the buzzword in Sabah’s snap polls.

Even before yesterday’s nomination day, there was talk that there would be “langgar” of the understanding among parties in the leading alliances competing in the state polls – Warisan Plus and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) – that they will not contest against their own partners.

Warisan Plus consists of Warisan, Upko, DAP, PKR and Amanah while GRS includes Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).

Translated into English, langgar also means to hit or ram, as in a car accident.

Langgar was an accident waiting to happen in the main state opposition alliance, GRS.

On Thursday, when Barisan (Umno, MCA and PBRS), Perikatan (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Sabah STAR and SAPP) and PBS announced their candidates, there was overlap in some seats, mostly in the KDM-majority (Kadazan, Dusun and Murut) constituencies.

Yesterday’s nomination day revealed 17 free-for-all grabs (or friendly fights, as spin doctors framed the negative narrative) in the loose alliance that is GRS. Umno and PBS are contesting in seats not listed during their announcement on Thursday.

For example, Umno is fielding Jamawi Jaafar – the Kemabong assemblyman who ditched it to join Parti Warisan Sabah and then returned to the Malay party – in Melalap. It is a seat which the loose alliance has allocated to PBS.

In a tit for tat, PBS has placed seven more candidates than the 15 it announced on Thursday. It fielded a candidate in Paginatan, which STAR and Umno are contesting.

PBS might be in the Perikatan government. Still, it is not in the two main coalitions – Barisan and Perikatan – contesting in the Sabah polls that are a part of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration.

PBS had informed Muhyiddin that it wouldn’t be using the symbol of Barisan or Perikatan as it wants to contest on its own. However, it said it wanted to be part of an equitable seat-sharing arrangement.

The PBS leadership opted to use its symbol as they no longer want to be a passenger in a federal coalition. It wants to revive the spirit of 1985 when, against all odds, the party won the Sabah election and formed the state government.

PAS, MIC and the Gabungan Parti Sarawak coalition (GPS is a Sarawak coalition without a base in Sabah) are the Perikatan partners that are not contesting in the Sabah polls. Despite pressure from its grassroots, PAS did not langgar the request by the Perikatan government for it not to compete. It was a practical move as the Islamist party would have been an issue Warisan Plus could have used against GRS. In multiracial Sabah, many Sabahans perceive PAS as an extremist party.

Why couldn’t the Perikatan government prevent a free-for-all battle among its partners?

There was no central figure who could command respect – or fear – to persuade the parties to toe the line. The Perikatan government is not like the Barisan government, where Umno dominated its coalition partners.

The langgar decision was also driven by emotion, overconfidence, mistrust, ego, political greed and sheer incompetence.

The inability to avoid overlaps among the Perikatan government parties is an indication of how fractious seat-sharing negotiations will be between Barisan, Perikatan and Muafakat Nasional for GE15.

Langgar will cost GRS votes in seats where there are free-for-all fights. Votes will be split. For example, in Tulid, PBS, STAR and PBRS are fighting each other.

The parties in the Perikatan government have too many drivers – Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, Sabah Bersatu chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, STAR president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and PBS president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili. Warisan Plus has only one driver – caretaker chief minister and Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

Earlier in the week, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim acted like a runaway truck and was on a langgar course with the rest of Warisan Plus. Anwar demanded 14 seats as he was not happy with the seven PKR was allocated.

Shafie did not fall for his geratak (Sabah slang for threat), and Anwar blinked first.

On day one of the 14-day campaigning period beginning Sept 26, will be advantage to Warisan Plus. It is going into the election as a united front. There’s no langgar among its candidates.

The other buzzword defining the Sabah polls is “democrazy”. The state’s politics have gone crazy with so many parties and candidates vying to win the 73 state seats.

The other non-GRS Opposition parties to watch are Parti Cinta Sabah headed by former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and the Liberal Democratic Party led by former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.

With GRS opting for langgar in some of the seats, Parti Cinta Sabah and the Liberal Democratic Party might gain from the free-for-all fights. There is talk that hardcore supporters of parties in GRS would rather vote for other Opposition parties than parties in the Perikatan government.

Winning two or three seats could make Parti Cinta Sabah or the Liberal Democratic Party the kingmakers if polls are hung.

Will GRS rue its failure to prevent langgar?

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