Seat u-turn will cost GRS at polls, say analysts

As Sabahans head to the polls tomorrow, a clash has broken out between PBS and STAR over election seats.

KOTA KINABALU: A potential meltdown in relations between Gabungan Rakyat Sabah allies PBS and STAR over election seats could dent the coalition’s hopes of a handsome win in the state elections, according to a political scientiest.

Sabahans go to the polls tomorrow, with STAR apparently breaking a partial truce struck between the two parties over seat clashes. Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said PBS were likely to be mistrustful of STAR after the party accepted independent candidate Kenny Chua as a member just hours after agreeing with PBS to avoid clashes in four seats.

Chua is contesting the Inanam seat as an independent against nine others including PBS.

“This friction between PBS and STAR will affect GRS’ chances to win and win big in the election,” Azman told FMT. He said that although the agreement between PBS and STAR meant the former will pull out its candidates from contesting the Bingkor and Tambunan seats, the fact remains they are still candidates there.

“There is a big potential of sabotage and this will cause splitting of votes. For sure PBS supporters will feel slighted over the move by STAR,” he said.

On Tuesday, PN secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin had managed to convince PBS to drop out from contesting the Bingkor and Tambunan seats while STAR, in return, would “withdraw” two independent candidates linked to the party in Bengkoka and Api-Api and campaign for PBS instead.

The candidates will still technically be standing in their respective seats but have agreed to campaign for the other party instead following the consensus brokered by Hamzah.

But just hours after PBS and STAR signed the deal, STAR handed Chua his party membership card, and independent Anita Baranting, who is contesting the Tandek seat, submitted her membership form to STAR president Jeffrey Kitingan at a ceremony in Kota Marudu yesterday

Baranting is locked in a six-way fight against PBS, among others, for the seat.

Although Chua and Baranting remain as independents on the ballot papers, their association with STAR means the party will, without taking into account the other contesting parties, go head-to-head with PBS in six seats.

In total, the three GRS partners – PN , Barisan Nasional and PBS – are clashing in 17 seats.

Awang Azman likened STAR’s action in accepting the independents as members as a “stab in the back” to PBS.

“The move by STAR to accept Chua (after the consensus deal) will likely affect the image of the party, which is now seen as turning their back on loyalty and camaraderie among ally parties above facing the common enemy.

“Both parties have been in politics long enough and should know the rivalry with each other will not benefit them and can cause their downfall.

“This will also cause disappointment among STAR supporters who had hoped for more transparency and integrity from the party leadership,” he said.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Lee Kuok Tiung also agreed that STAR had, to an extent, reneged on the partial peace agreement with PBS.

“It’s a positive sign that they have agreed to work in some seats. “But (the Chua affair) has revealed Jeffrey’s true colours. This raises the question of whether he can cooperate with anyone because based on his past history he had also moved from one party to another, and one alliance to another,” he said.

On another note, he said PBS will feel hurt even more after not being given the first pick on the negotiation table because it is not a component of either PN or BN. STAR is a member of Perikatan Nasional.

“PBRS in BN and Star in PN have the privilege to choose how many and which seats they wanted first. The ‘leftover’ seats are only given to PBS because it is a PN Plus party, not a component party. This will make PBS feel like a second class party,” Lee said.

He said PBS were not afforded a clear path to face main contenders Warisan Plus even in traditional seats such as Tandek and Matunggong, which they had won in the previous election

PBS had previously announced it would contest in 15 seats but it turned out that on nomination day, the party had fielded candidates in seven additional seats, setting up further clashes with PN and BN component parties.

Click here for the latest on the Sabah polls