COMMENTARY, Jan 6 — The Kimanis parliamentary by-election is largely seen as a battle of personalities between two local leaders rather than an issue- or political ideology-based one.
The constituency is not in the mainstream of development for any mega projects or manufacturing plants that can open up thousands of jobs for the local youngsters.
The candidates know this and their real battle is who is more popular and who can deliver the seat to their respective parties: Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) candidate Datuk Karim Bujang to Chief Minister and Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal (and ultimately Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) and Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Datuk Mohamad Alamin for BN’s Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Both candidates underwent their “political training” in Umno, the backbone of BN until the last general election when Karim moved to Warisan while Mohamad stayed in Umno.
Their battle the next 12 days is to convince the 29,618 registered voters who should represent them in parliament to speak for needed development and help.
Ironically, the voters know the result — either way — will in no way change their lives because the constituency has been left behind by other constituencies where the logistics are available.
For Karim and Shafie, their real job is to stop the advancement of BN whose winning streak has worried the Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders in Kuala Lumpu.
Losing the Kimanis battle may see Shafie lose any leverage he has to make demands from the federal government particularly in current talks on MA63 and Sabah Temporary Pass or PSS.
The federal government may be more accommodating if the Warisan-led state government shows it is in control of the state but if it loses, it goes to show the new state government is still unstable and too weak to dictate terms.
This will enable Umno and PAS to propagate their political ideology to Sabahans who during the 2018 general election were proud of their “Sabah for Sabahans” war cry.
For BN, it has nothing to lose given it has proven itself in four previous by-elections with the last its sweetest victory as it managed to make the PH leaders fight among themselves.
If BN is to win Kimanis with a much higher majority, the biggest loser will be the prime minister and his Cabinet as the result will be seen as a reflection of their performance.
Former education minister Mazlee Malik’s resignation will not play any role in the present campaign in Kimanis but voters understand the political undercurrent that led to it.
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