According to PAS, although 60% of the electorate 'favour us', only a one-to-one fight with BN could ensure a win for the opposition.
PAS deputy president, Mohamad Sabu, more popularly known as Mat Sabu, reckons that voters in the east Malaysian state will have to make a complete turnaround compared to the last election to allow the opposition to march into Putrajaya.
While confident that Pakatan Rakyat would do even better in Peninsular Malaysia compared to the 2008 general election, the popular and down-to-earth PAS leader said Sabah voters would either swing it the opposition’s way or help maintain the status quo.
He said, “We have very good prospects of winning more seats in Sarawak and can reach the magic number of 112 in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat provided voters in neighbouring Sabah respond to the loud calls for change.
“We must win 10 to 12 seats in Sabah for Pakatan to take over at federal level,” he said at a luncheon with friends at Chessington on Sunday.
Together with the lone parliamentary seat of Labuan, Sabah has 26 seats up for grabs in the coming 13th general election. In the last election, the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition won 25 seats, losing only the state capital Kota Kinabalu to DAP.
However, BN lost two more seats when one of its components, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), left soon after the 2008 general election and took with it the Tawau and Sepanggar seats.
Another two Sabah parliamentary seats, Beaufort and Tuaran, were recently handed over to the opposition when incumbents Lajim Ukin and Wilfred Bumburing left the BN to become Pakatan supporters.
Mat Sabu, who was in London from Nov 7-11 to meet friends and supporters including Malaysians residing around UK, also expressed confidence that the opposition front could win sufficient seats to form the next government if the opposition is united.
“We must have a one-to-one fight with BN, otherwise, though 60% of the electorate favour us, we will not win because of the split vote,” he said of the threat posed to a consolidated vote by opposition parties outside the coalition.
But the unflappable opposition politician is not worried by the occasional flare-ups between Pakatan and go-it-alone Sabah opposition parties like SAPP and the State Reform Party (STAR) which have yet to thrash out their differences and agree to a one-on-one contests against the BN.
“Biarlah kita ‘bertumbuk’ bincang sesama kita daripada nanti kalah,” he said in Malay which loosely means “it is better for all the opposition parties to fight with each other now and arrive at a compromise than wait for a certain defeat”.
Spontaneous protests by civil society, the recent Sarawak state election as well as desertions by prominent personalities from the BN coalition parties are the surest sign the BN is losing support.
Sarawak has 31 parliamentary seats and two of them, Kuching and Sibu, are already in the Pakatan fold.
It has been a gradual turnaround from 2008 when voters in Sabah and Sarawak saved the ruling BN coalition from being removed from power at federal level.
As it was, the BN suffered shocking losses, after being ejected from power in six states, including the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, on the way to losing its two-thirds majority for the first time in decades.
Political pundits noted that if the majority of the combined 57 parliamentary seats in the two Borneon states had gone to the opposition, the Umno-led BN would have certainly lost its grip on the central power for the first time in 50 years.
The coming general election, nevertheless, remains a toss-up. In Sabah, native-based STAR and SAPP are both competing with Pakatan parties – PKR, DAP and PAS – for opposition votes.
Unlike in the past when Sabah was ignored by BN leaders at federal level who were content that they had the majority Malay vote sewn up, BN chairman Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is taking pains to woo voters in the state.
Both he and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim have been visiting the state quite often within days of each other in a race to ensure voters resonate to their calls.