Sandakan a walk in the park for DAP, say analysts

Sandakan MP Stephen Wong during a clean-up campaign in his constituency last September. Wong, a popular figure in the local community, retained the seat for DAP with a majority of over 10,000 in GE14. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: DAP winning the Sandakan parliamentary seat – made vacant recently by the death of Stephen Wong – is a foregone conclusion, as the Chinese-majority seat has long been a stronghold for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) party.

In the May 2018 polls, Wong retained the seat for DAP for the second time, with a majority of more than 10,000, about 10 times more than the majority it got when the party wrested the seat from Barisan Nasional in 2013.

This, said Universiti Teknologi Mara lecturer Tony Paridi Bagang, is enough indication of who will win the seat in the by-election to come.

“Such a figure is convincing enough that DAP will be able to keep the seat,” he told FMT.

Bagang said the setback, if at all it happens, is that PH might win with a reduced majority.

He said there were “dragging issues” in the state such as the lack of action on illegal immigrants and the unresolved issue of Sabah’s autonomy.

“But I do not think it is strong enough to lead to a defeat,” he added.

East Malaysia political observer Arnold Puyok agrees.

“I do not see that there are many pertinent issues. People may complain about PH failing to fulfil its election promises but they don’t see how choosing a non-PH candidate can make any difference,” said the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak deputy dean.

But Sabah academic Lee Kuok Tiung said Warisan’s backing for PH will be crucial for the ruling coalition to retain Sandakan.

He said DAP has the advantage because of sympathy votes towards the untimely demise of Wong, who was also the Sabah DAP chief.

Wong was a popular figure in the Sandakan community.

“I can’t see any candidate from the opposition side that can give a fierce competition to PH for now.

“In other words, there’s no better alternative at the moment in Sandakan,” Lee, of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, told FMT.

He also said the general criticism over unkept promises by PH would take time to translate into protest votes.