Sabah fence-sitters, young voters hold the key, says analyst

Early voting for the Sabah elections took place on Tuesday. Other voters cast their ballots tomorrow.

KOTA KINABALU: Fence-sitters and first-time voters could play a significant role in determining which coalition gets the mandate at the state elections tomorrow, says an electoral researcher.

Eko Prayitno Joko, a political analyst with Universiti Malaysia Sabah, said the two groups of voters would not decide merely on a candidate’s party but would scrutinise them for their credibility and capability to deliver on their promises.

“These fence-sitters and young voters may turn out to be the kingmakers of Sabah. It’s safe to say 20-30% of the eligible voters in this election are fence-sitters,” he told Bernama.

The two main coalitions in the contest are Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and Warisan Plus. Eight other parties are also in the fray, with 447 candidates, including 56 independents, taking part.

Eko Prayitno, a geo-political and electoral researcher who travelled to most of the 73 constituencies in Sabah for his research on the state election, said the fence-sitters include the politically well informed and educated, who are more interested in seeing a contest of ideas that can bring changes in their areas.

“These fence-sitters no longer feel beholden to any entity. To them, whoever is the government is duty-bound to bring benefits to society,” he added.

Echoing his sentiment is fellow UMS geopolitical researcher Syahruddin Awang Ahmad, who said young voters and fence-sitters “are more pragmatic and are not influenced by party ideologies per se”.

Another UMS political analyst, Amrullah Maraining, said the high number of parties contesting this time would affect the voting pattern and give voters greater leeway to pick a candidate who fits their taste and aspiration.

These voters, especially fence-sitters, are more likely to be kingmakers in such a scenario, Amrullah said.

Some 40% of the 1.12 million eligible voters in this election are in the 21-39 age group.

Click here for the latest on the Sabah polls