KOTA KINABALU, Nov 5 – Two incidents of surprise friendly fire, a minor riot involving tear gas and multi-cornered fights in all but one seat provided Sabah with its usual political drama during nominations for the 15th general election today.
After all was settled, only one of the state’s 25 federal seats would be a direct contest: Sabah Barisan Nasional chief Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin will defend his Kinabatangan seat against his cousin and Warisan candidate Mazliwati Abdul Malek.
Mazliwati, a lawyer and first-time candidate, was not Warisan’s first choice for the seat. The party’s Youth chief, Datuk Ismail Ayob, was set to contest the seat but a last-minute change saw Mazliwati put up for the task instead.
Of the other 24 seats, 10 will feature five candidates, seven will be six-way contests, four will see four-cornered battles, and three more are three-way fights.
Two alliances were also potentially broken on the first day of campaigning, as Beluran incumbent Datuk Ronald Kiandee took his own party by surprise by defending his seat against the state Gabungan Rakyat Sabah- Barisan Nasional consensus.
He had gone over Sabah Bersatu and GRS chief Datuk Hajiji Noor to get a letter of appointment from national Bersatu chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, allowing him to contest using the Perikatan Nasional (PN) logo.
On the other side of the pact, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah’s former MP, Datuk Ewon Ebin, broke ranks to run in GRS’s Ranau seat against Bersatu incumbent Datuk Janathan Yasin.
Both these seats are five-cornered fights.
One suspected proxy candidate is the son of Kemabong assemblyman Datuk Rubin Balang, Riduan, who is contesting the Tenom seat as an independent candidate.
Yesterday’s speculation that some of Sabah’s political old guard would emerge as spoilers proved wrong. The rumours claimed these warlords were upset at being left out of the GRS-BN candidate list and were looking for a way in via PN or another political vehicle.
Although Chief Minister Hajiji and Bung had both insisted that they would abide by their decision to stick to the pact, tensions still boiled over and, by morning, no one was certain whether the agreements would hold.
However, the two clashes in the Beluran and Pensiangan turned out to be a far cry from the potential nine seats that were purportedly in danger of facing potential interference from PN.
Separately, a minor riot in the interior district of Tenom became a national highlight as dozens of videos showing large crowds brandishing Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (PKDM) flags and running from plumes of smoke spread across social media.
The nomination process had begun innocuously enough for PKDM chief Datuk Peter Anthony but just as the announcement was about to be made, the returning officer said that the EC headquarters objected to his application.
He submitted his nomination papers despite an undischarged conviction for forgery in August, for which he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and a RM50,000 fine. Peter claimed he was still entitled to run in the election as he was appealing the decision.
He said that the riot that occurred was due to the irregularity of the objection and the ensuing emotions which happened after the process. He said he planned to sue the Election Commission over the rejection.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Idris Abdullah, in a press conference later, did not address the use of tear gas in the efforts to disperse the crowd.
Peter’s party is openly GRS-friendly but said it was contesting in the general election as it was not officially part of GRS or the GRS-BN alliance.