PETALING JAYA: A political analyst says the Warisan-led administration in Sabah has its work cut out for it in convincing voters of its ability to address unresolved issues in the state, especially given the change of hands in Putrajaya which has placed the coalition on federal opposition ground.
Tony Paridi Bagang of Sabah UiTM said the migrant and Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS) issue as well as Warisan’s failure to fulfil its election pledge of 20% oil royalty would be key concerns in the next election.
“They still have at least three years to show Sabahans that they can address these issues, though this will be even harder to do as an opposition state,” he told FMT.
“Being a local party has its advantages, but Sabahans will still evaluate their achievements – this will determine if the advantage ultimately matters.”
The PSS was a main focus in last year’s Kimanis by-election although the state government decided against proceeding with the programme after Warisan lost the fight for the parliamentary constituency.
The opposition in Sabah has been gaining ground following recent developments including Perikatan Nasional’s rise to federal power, PPBM’s exit from Pakatan Harapan (PH), several defections in the state and former chief minister Musa Aman’s acquittal of corruption and money laundering charges.
While Warisan and its allies still hold the lion’s share of seats in the state, Bagang expects a more vocal opposition, saying Warisan must be prepared to face such a challenge.
Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi meanwhile said Warisan had ridden a platform of local issues like state rights, oil royalties and illegal immigration in the 2018 general election. He said this gave it an advantage over Barisan Nasional.
“But after it formed the government and began working with PH, these issues were heard of less.
“In fact, no difference could be seen between Sarawak, an opposition state, and Sabah which supported PH.”
Such issues in both states remain unresolved, especially matters concerning oil royalties which saw Kelantan given a one-off payment of RM400 million by the PH government instead.
Awang Azman also warned that some might find it ironic for Warisan president Shafie Apdal to take on Umno and PPBM while working with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was responsible for bringing the two parties to Sabah.
“Still, Warisan has time to improve and repair its reputation among voters, and Shafie is a charismatic and influential figure with strong grassroots support,” he said.
He added that no Sabah-based opposition party was seen as strong enough to challenge Warisan due to a lack of grassroots, weak machinery or insufficient figures of influence.
“The Sabah-based opposition parties are still led by the politicians of old,” he told FMT.
He said this placed them in a dilemma as they would have to work with national parties like Umno and PPBM which could dampen their local credentials.
This was not the case for Warisan, he added.
“Though they are working with PKR and DAP which are also national parties, it is less of a problem as they are in the driver’s seat.”
To do the same, he said, Umno and PPBM would need to “soften their image” as national parties and take on more local narratives, “even if it means disagreeing with the national leadership”.
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