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No tussle for seats after Sabah defections

 | July 31, 2012

Pakatan said it is confident that all quarters will be accommodated.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat leaders today denied the defections by two Sabah Barisan Nasional leaders would lead to intense infighting for seats with the power alignment now changed just as national polls looms.

It was reported yesterday that the pact between Pakatan and the local Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) is now shaky, as the resignations of Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing and Beaufort MP Lajim Ukin is set “to throw a spanner” in the existing seat negotiations.

Lajim’s departure from BN over the weekend came with the announcement of his intention to have his men contest 17 out of the state’s 25 parliamentary seats in the coming election that could scupper the Pakatan-SAPP power-sharing deal.

In March, SAPP leaders had said the opposition seat-sharing formula must entail Sabah parties contesting in two-thirds of the state’s 60 state seats, while Pakatan takes on two-thirds of the federal seats.

SAPP also hinted at its refusal to back down should either Lajim or Bumburing push to field their choice of candidates, saying this was not part of the opposition’s agenda.

PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali said he would not describe the situation as a “deepening rivalry”, adding that he is certain that the ongoing seats talks would accommodate existing demands from all quarters.

“I wouldn’t call it that. We are still in talks and I’m sure that there will be space for everyone so the issue of a deep rift does not arise,” he told a press conference after a Pakatan secretariat meeting held at the PAS headquarters here.

Capturing Sabah and Sarawak will be crucial to Pakatan’s quest to wrest federal power, with the two states, including the Federal Territory of Labuan, providing a significant 57 seats, or 25% of the 222 parliamentary seats available.

New allies

In the 2008 election, BN lost its customary parliamentary two-thirds majority chiefly due to significant losses in the peninsula, where it won just 85 seats while the opposition grabbed only five seats less than the ruling coalition.

BN’s saving grace was in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan – known as its “fixed deposits” – where it trounced the opposition and made a near-clean sweep, winning 55 parliamentary seats to the opposition’s two.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his allies have made it clear that Pakatan must double its efforts to penetrate the two states, with unity pivotal to its bid to infiltrate BN’s traditional fortress.

Yesterday, Sabah PKR chief Ahmad Thamrin Jaini was quoted as saying that Pakatan parties would have to meet again at the negotiation table to accommodate its new allies.

Party vice-president Nurul Izzah, speaking at the same press conference, today said she is confident that the ongoing weekly meeting between the components would help solve the issue amicably.

“The meetings have been cordial and this is why weekly meetings like this [secretariat] is healthy,” she said.

BN chairman and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was said to have considered postponing holding election to year-end from a “firm” September date following the defections.

Lajim, a federal deputy minister and a former Umno supreme council member, cited disillusionment with his party’s leadership behind his exit and would remain as an independent while Bumburing said he will lead the Sabah Reform Movement and back Pakatan in the polls.


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