Snap polls the best way to resolve Sabah impasse, say analysts

Analysts say a fresh election is the best way to resolve the political impasse in Sabah.

PETALING JAYA: Three analysts have welcomed the decision by the Sabah governor to dissolve the state assembly, paving the way for a snap election in the state.

Speaking to FMT, Awang Azman Pawi, Azmi Hassan and James Chin said this would be the best way to resolve the political impasse between Chief Minister Shafie Apdal and his predecessor, Musa Aman.

However, Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Lee Kuok Tiung said he was not in favour of a snap election to resolve the political crisis in Sabah due to the resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

Lee told FMT that the issue of who leads the government in Sabah should be resolved the same way it was at the federal level, where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong interviewed each elected representative to determine who truly enjoyed majority support.

“If indeed Shafie, as the incumbent, has lost majority support, he should be a gentleman and resign as chief minister. Now is not the right time for elections,” he said.

“The good thing is that the Sabah state assembly now has 73 seats instead of 60, as during the last general election. This means that there should be a clear winner if there is a fresh election.”

As it stands, he said, Perikatan Nasional would have an advantage over the Pakatan Harapan coalition there as Warisan and PKR were at odds over the opposition’s choice of candidate for prime minister.

However, Azmi of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said he agreed with holding fresh polls.

“Right now, neither Shafie nor Musa has a clear majority. Whoever becomes chief minister, there is always the possibility that crossovers will continue,” he said.

“The instability will likely persist in Sabah and that is why fresh elections are the best option, especially for Shafie if he has lost the support of the majority.”

Awang Azman said the unfolding events in Sabah should be a wake-up call to Shafie to focus on the state instead of the prime minister’s post.

“Crossovers by assemblymen are nothing new and I believe it has been in the works since Musa was cleared of his corruption charges,” he said.

“I think Shafie has underestimated Musa and Perikatan Nasional in Sabah and probably did not foresee this move to topple his administration.”

He said fresh elections would be the best way to resolve the impasse, but added that this would be burdensome and risky for the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially as the economy is struggling.

Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute agreed, saying the Sabah governor had made the right decision in dissolving the state assembly as it was important to allow the people to make the choice.

“Previously, the governor just swore in the person using statutory declarations when it should have been done via elections,” he said.

He added that it was too early to say who would win the polls as it was still possible that assemblymen who had backed Musa yesterday would revert to supporting Shafie.

“What’s clear is that Musa will be the number one issue. The fact that the corruption charges were suddenly dropped, I think Shafie will use it as the main issue.”