In the coming general election, Jeffrey Kitingan's party is trying to woo BN candidates dropped by the ruling coalition.
The State Reform Party (STAR), according to the political grapevine, is scouring both sides of the political divide for candidates and partners. The United Borneo Front (UBF), an ad hoc NGO, and the pro tem United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) have already confirmed that they would be jointly fielding candidates in all 60 state seats in Sabah and 26 parliamentary seats including Labuan under the STAR symbol.
STAR is a Borneo-based national party based in Kuching. It may have candidates in Peninsular Malaysia as well if Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, pledged towards a third force in Parliament, uses its symbol and flag as well.
Already, Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy is planning to take on MIC president G Palanivel in Cameron Highlands or wherever he decides to stand. The ad hoc apolitical human rights movement wants to put an end to the mandore politics syndrome plaguing Indians on both of the divide.
STAR chairman Jeffrey Kitingan, when asked about the reported STAR’s plan to eye both sides of the political divide for candidates, was non-committal: “Let’s see what happens.”
However, he does not disagree with working across the political divide for candidates to be fielded under his party’s symbol.
The gist of STAR’s 60/26 plan, as worked out by party strategists, revolves around wooing Barisan Nasional Sabah incumbents dropped by the coalition to campaign for the party (STAR). At the same time, the new faces that were not fielded by the BN, as expected, can be considered as possible candidates for STAR, as the thinking goes. Such candidates, whose credibility and vote-drawing power must be unchallenged, may make up anything up to half the STAR candidates in both state and parliamentary seats.
Also, the thinking is that STAR must work hand-in-glove with Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) to lay the ghosts of 1994 to rest. In that year, PBS won the state election for an unprecedented fourth term by a razor-thin margin of two seats. Another three seats were lost when some rebel Chinese state assemblymen broke away after dissolution to form the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) within an unprecedented 24 hours. The party, continuing from the 1994 tie-up with Anwar Ibrahim, has now formed a polls pact with the opposition Pakatan Rakyat.
The target of the combined wrath of PBS and STAR, if the deal materialises, would be all the other BN parties especially two other PBS-breakaways Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) and the United PasokMomogun KadazanDusunMurut Organisation (Upko), besides wiping out and burying SAPP and “the parti parti Malaya in Borneo”.
UBF is eyeing the Orang Asal seats held by Umno since 1994 while Usno wants back all its seats taken by Umno in the same year.
Critics say that STAR is biting off more than it can chew.
For starters, the possibility of STAR and PBS working together would be a million-ringgit question if Jeffrey’s elder brother and PBS chief, Joseph Pairin Kitingan, decides to stand in the Keningau parliamentary seat, which the former is eyeing as well. Jeffrey thinks that Pairin should stick to the Tambunan state seat for his last hurrah.
Earlier, it was rumoured that Pairin was toying with the idea of fielding his son Alex in Keningau after deciding against offering himself there or in any parliamentary seat. Pairin may have changed his mind on Keningau after the BN leadership made it plain that it was against virtually giving away the seat to Jeffrey.
However, the BN is reportedly neutral on Jeffrey’s earlier plan to stand in the Pensiangan parliamentary seat where incumbent Joseph Kurup, the PBRS president, is a no hoper based on the 2008 results which were disputed in court. Kurup fled with a black eye after it was announced that his challenger had filed five minutes late and that he (Kurup) had been returned unopposed.
Between Jeffrey and Pairin in Keningau, it’s a virtual toss-up since the younger voters are favoured to be with the former. However, the catch may be that many of the youth are working outside the Sabah interior, many even as far away as Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. Not all them can be expected to return for polling day.
The bottomline is that all bets on any form of STAR-PBS polls co-operation would be off if both Jeffrey and Pairin want Keningau. One would have to give way.
Assuming that PBS and STAR would not be working together come the 13th general election, and given that there would not be straight fights anywhere, there are no prizes for guessing the eventual outcome on D-Day.
The political pundits are in consensus that Sabah STAR, under the circumstances, can at best win five parliamentary seats, that is, UBF three seats excluding Keningau and Usno (two seats).
Six seats likely to be won by Sabah BN parties other than Umno are likely to support STAR in the event of a hung Parliament, that is, a scenario envisaging 107 parliamentary seats for BN including 42 from Sabah (18) and Sarawak (24); STAR (five); Hindraf (five); and Pakatan (105 seats) including three in Sabah through DAP and seven in Sarawak through DAP (6) and PKR (one) respectively.
Sabah Umno can be expected to hold on to 12 parliamentary seats after conceding two to Usno.
Sabah DAP is expected to take the three parliamentary seats of Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau.
Sabah STAR’s best possible position post-13th general election is one where it can form the nucleus of a third force in Parliament together with Hindraf.
Sabah STAR strategists claim that they can do better than five parliamentary seats given the fact that the next general election will “in fact be a one-to-one fight between the Borneo Agenda and the Agenda parti parti Malaya in Borneo”.
The Agenda Borneo stands against everything that the Agenda parti parti Malaya in Borneo stands for and especially Putrajaya ruling Sabah and Sarawak through local proxies and stooges.
However, it’s highly unlikely that BN and Pakatan can divide the entire 222 parliamentary seats between them in the 13th general election. It’s a certainty that the third force is here to stay and would make at least a modest entry in the next Parliament