COMMENTARY, Sept 29 — With the Sabah state election now over and the smooth swearing-in of Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor as its chief minister, the focus is now on the two parties that had fought hard to take back the state from Pakatan Harapan (PH).
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Umno are fighting for dominance even as the latter conceded to Bersatu when it came to the chief minister’s post.
Barisan Nasional (BN) had proposed its Umno state chief Datuk Seri Bung Mokhtar Radin for the post but Bersatu under Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) which won most number of seats stood its ground resulting in a stand-off.
If you look at just Umno and Bersatu, the former won more seats; Umno’s 14 to Bersatu’s 11.
BN conceded with reservation; it had given way twice before to Bersatu and this would be the third.
The two parties will face off again in the distribution of seats for the coming general election.
The fight will be over which party will get the most Malay majority seats at federal and state level... seats which are considered safe.
Bersatu was dominant when it was in PH due to its former chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s status as the chairman of the coalition.
When the party left PH to form an alliance with PAS and Barisan Nasional (BN) to take over the government, it became the dominant party although it had the least number of MPs.
However, its numbers grew when MPs from BN crossed over to the party.
The victory in Sabah is considered as an endorsement of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s leadership on the overall administration of the country and closes the door on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s earlier announcement he had the numbers to take over the government.
The announcement two days before polling in Sabah did not help his party nor defending Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal win the state election.
Shafie, who was in Usno and then Umno for the most part of his political career, is not expected to make any “dirty” move such as enticing assemblymen to hop as he is known as a “gentleman politician.”
GRS is expected to have a smooth ride from now to develop Sabah according to campaign promises.
Although politics is a numbers game, the reality is the numbers come from voters who are now more matured, wise and in the know of what they want.
The Sabah results cannot be considered an indicator of how the next general election will turn out as its political landscape is very different from that of peninsular Malaysia.
In the Peninsula, everything revolves around race and religion which is not the case in Sabah, a state where tribal politics is more prominent.
Bersatu and Umno will have to find common ground or risk going separate ways in the next general election.
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