COMMENTARY, Sept 19 — Sabah political parties should be stepping up their pace for polling day next Saturday.
The incumbent Warisan Plus coalition led by Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal can count on 30 seats, edged out narrowly by the Opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) and its allies in Sabah with their collective 31 seats.
The headcount at present seems to be 16 seats for Warisan and for its allies, Upko (six), DAP (five), and PKR (four).
The Sabah Opposition led by Barisan Nasional (BN) chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin has 21 and can count on PN allies Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Betsatu Sabah (PBS) for five seats each.
While PN led by Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin holds the reins in the peninsula, it is seen as a newcomer in Sabah, where local parties dominate.
For Sabahans, their chief concerns in this election remains the same as in past elections — infrastructure, the economy, the influx of undocumented immigrants, and Sabah’s rights as an equal partner to Malaya and Sarawak as laid down in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 when the nation was formed.
Voters basically have two options. Option 1 is to elect state leaders who can get along with the federal government. Option 2 is to elect state leaders who are strong enough to be independent.
Sabahans today are wiser and would be able to know the game the politicians are playing in their state.
The reason why is possibly because Sabahans see no leader that can unite the various tribes in their state, whether in Warisan Plus or BN, PN and the assortment of parties in their coterie.
Shafie is seen as appealing to the Murut, Suluk tribes and not the larger Kadazan, Dusun communities and Malays. BN and its pack have no one to even match Shafie in stature though it is seen as trying to shore up support for Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan.
However, there is another possibility for Sabah — former federal foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, who is running with a new party after leaving Umno. But his Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) appears to have gained very little publicity.
Despite that, some Sabahans think PCS might bag five seats out of 73 up for grabs in the state assembly. That might just put it in a position to tilt the scales one way or another if the election ends in a draw for Warisan Plus and the BN, PN alliance.