For Sabah opposition, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, say analysts

Sabah chief minister and Warisan president Shafie Apdal with other state leaders at a press conference in March. Analysts say opposition parties in Sabah will unite in their desire to oust the current state government from power.

PETALING JAYA: Analysts have downplayed the risk of overcrowding within Sabah’s opposition in the event of snap polls despite PPBM’s departure from the ruling Warisan-led alliance which has seen the creation of yet another opposition party in the state.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Azmi Hassan acknowledged the numerous opposition parties in Sabah and their differing ideologies but said they were united in their desire to oust the current state government from power.

He also spoke of the possibility that former chief minister Musa Aman, who was recently acquitted of corruption and money laundering charges, would “return to the fore”.

“For the opposition, this would be a major boost because Musa is seen as a leader who can bring the different parties together,” he told FMT.

“In West Malaysia, it may be difficult for an opposition bloc to sustain itself when it comprises so many parties, but in Sabah this can be done with a strong leader and Musa fits the bill.”

There are six key opposition parties in Sabah: PPBM; Barisan Nasional which comprises Umno, MCA and PBRS; PBS; STAR; SAPP and another party led by former foreign minister Anifah Aman.

Speculation of snap elections arose in the wake of political developments in Putrajaya as well as in Sabah, where two assemblymen switched sides this week in support of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional.

While PPBM and Umno are seen as the two main parties in the fight over seats, Azmi said this might not be the case in Sabah where PPBM leaders were part of Umno prior to the 2018 general election.

“With the change of government in Putrajaya, PPBM and Umno have a common political enemy in the Warisan-led state government which also comprises DAP and PKR,” he said.

He added that it was “very plausible” for PPBM and Umno in Sabah to work more closely than their counterparts at the national level.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Lee Kuok Tiung agreed, saying the opposition in Sabah would likely resolve their differences before nomination.

He concurred that the main issues would be between Umno and PPBM due to their common roots.

But he too said things were different in Sabah.

“Unlike in West Malaysia, relations between Umno and PPBM leaders in Sabah are still cordial. They didn’t go to war with each other in GE14.”

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