Analysts split on whether Sabah Opposition disunity a boon for GRS-Barisan

KOTA KINABALU: The Opposition in Sabah looks to be in disarray ahead of the 15th General Election (GE15) following the public spat between Parti Warisan and DAP, but political analysts are split over whether or not this means the ruling GRS-Barisan Nasional coalition is a shoo-in.

Except in the unlikely event Warisan and DAP patch things up before GE15, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) senior lecturer Dr Romzi Ationg said all signs pointed to a disastrous showing by Opposition parties.

“I think the Opposition will find it difficult to win many seats (in Sabah) because of this disunity.

“For the moment, Warisan is still accepted in several areas but other Opposition parties will find it tough,” he said when contacted.

ALSO READ: Who betrayed who, Warisan hits back at DAP

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun believes this disunity will split the votes for the Opposition parties in some constituencies, especially the urban and suburban seats.

“But then again, Perikatan Nasional and Barisan Nasional are similarly likely to compete against one another so it remains to be seen if the respective splitting effect would cancel out one another,” he said.

Leaders from Warisan and DAP have been engaged in a war of words since early this year, suggesting the one-time allies were not going to be working with each other in GE15.

The spat has spiralled over the months, with Warisan’s main contention being that DAP and Pakatan Harapan had betrayed the people by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government.

ALSO READ: Sabah DAP regrets Warisan going solo in GE15, ‘but we’ll move on’

On the other hand, DAP was hurt after Warisan contested in the Johor state elections in seats they (DAP) won in GE14, with its secretary-general Anthony Loke saying the reason behind the soured relations was because of the “confrontational approach” by some Warisan leaders.

Oh said the major coalitions have their respective electoral strengths, adding, for example, that Warisan would dominate coastal seats in the east coast and possibly beyond those areas to a certain extent.

“Pakatan would sweep most of the urban and suburban seats while the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) would be formidable in the interior and Barisan would still be attractive to many of the Muslim voters,” he said.

He added that the seat distribution will be pretty much spread out among all the parties.

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“But it’s a parliamentary election anyway, so the important thing is to win a few MP seats and then they could be part of the national ruling coalition,” he said.

Dr Lee Kuok Tiung, also of UMS, said Warisan would stand to benefit if GRS and Barisan were to lock horns over seat sharing.

He said GRS, Barisan and Warisan were equally strong in Sabah, with each having seats where it held an advantage over the rest.

He noted that GRS was getting stronger and that Barisan has a solid grassroots structure which makes it easier for them to mobilise election machinery.

“If both of them (GRS and Barisan) can work together, surely they’ll have the advantage,” he said.

ALSO READ: Warisan eyes all 26 parliamentary seats in Sabah

On the Pakatan side, however, Lee said only DAP was seen still in control of the urban seats.

He said PKR’s popularity had declined since GE15, especially after the Sheraton Move.

He added that the state chapter, now led by new Sabah PKR chief Datuk Sangkar Rasam, used to be strong in the Kota Belud, Tuaran and Putatan parliamentary areas.

Going into GE15, Lee said it would also be interesting to see how PKR and Warisan were going to work together in Putatan.

“The incumbent (Putatan MP Awang Husaini Sahari) is from PKR but Warisan has two assemblymen, namely Tanjung Aru and Petagas, in the Putatan parliamentary constituency.

“But, like the Kota Belud parliamentary seat, Warisan won because of support from PKR,” he said.