KOTA KINABALU, Sept 25 — With only one day left before polls open, caretaker Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal is determined not to leave things to chance and going the extra mile to secure as many votes as he can.
Hitting practically all 73 seats over the last two weeks, the 62-year-old has campaigned tirelessly across the state, often returning home at 2am where he takes Manuka honey to soothe a throat left hoarse by addressing up to six ceramah a day.
“I don’t know how he does it,” says a close relative who has trailed him throughout the campaign.
“He is a lot older than me. I don’t know why he’s not as tired as I am. I think it comes from inside. He is so determined and passionate about his message.”
To give an idea of his seemingly endless engagements, Shafie ventured to the Umno strongholds of Sukau, Kinabatangan, Sungai Sibuga, Sungai Manila and Gum-Gum on Tuesday.
Then, on Wednesday, he hit up six towns — Labuk, Kuamut, Telupid, Sugut, Ranau and Kundasang — which is no mean feat in a state where travelling from coast to coast can take up to 12 hours, that is if floods, landslides, traffic and livestock don’t get in the way.
Yesterday, Shafie started the morning in Likas Bay, here, where he met youths of the Sabah Unity Movement, before heading to Merotai on the south-east coast, and then Apas, near Tawau. He ended the day in his hometown of Semporna.
The schedule is tiring but he manages to squeeze in four to five hours of sleep and still fully engages with people or delivers a spirited speech at every stop.
Early predictions by analysts have put Warisan slightly ahead of its biggest competitor Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) by a narrow margin so Shafie is aware that many seats could go either way.
“There have been some predictions on the number of seats, but I don’t want to be complacent until the day after tomorrow. We need to work hard.
“But what I have heard from people on the ground is that we can win,” he said.
Shafie’s campaign message is simple: an inclusive Sabah without racial or religious inclinations that charts its own destiny within the federation without peninsula politics.
His message and policies of unity have attracted a youth following along the way.
Hence, the iconic image now plastered all across the state, even on Mount Kinabalu, which takes its cue from street artist Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster of former US president Barack Obama.
“I’m impressed with this movement initiated by the youth. They’ve used this as a platform to voice their issues and concerns, and it has spread not only in urban areas but also throughout the rural areas,” he said.
Shafie said that the unity movement is something he did not see coming per se but that it was encouraging to see people embracing it.
“It is something that surprises and excites me because I have never seen people working so closely together — Warisan, Upko, PKR, DAP and Amanah — all working together on the ground.
“On top of that, I’ve seen leaders, who are not contesting, but working as hard, speaking up, and contributing to the campaign to ensure candidates are doing well. I feel touched when I see them working so hard,” he said.
He said it was particularly heartening to see candidates who were dropped and former elected representatives and community leaders coming out to stump for Warisan.
“It doesn’t happen much elsewhere, where those people who were not chosen to contest end up supporting the candidates chosen, instead of breaking away and running as Independents, or going against the party. This usually does not happen anywhere,” he said.
Shafie’s Warisan Plus is facing GRS’ seven component parties and a host of other parties and Independent candidates in a tight race that will culminate on polling day which is September 26.
Campaigning ends at midnight tonight, September 25.
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