PETALING JAYA: A snap state election in Sabah would likely work out in the favour of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), with Warisan at its weakest point in the party’s history, an analyst says.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said Warisan, one of GRS’s main rivals, should still be able to defend its strongholds in the east coast of Sabah but would lose out elsewhere.
“GRS understandably would like to take full advantage of their main rival Warisan being at its nadir, though both are in the same federal ruling coalition government.
“It remains to be seen whether GRS or Sabah Umno will dominate the rest of the Muslim-Bumiputera seats, but most non-Bumiputera and some non-Muslim Bumiputera seats are likely to be dominated by Pakatan Harapan once again,” Oh told FMT.
Formed in 2016, Warisan, led by Shafie Apdal, was once a close ally of PH. However, it decided to go solo during the 15th general election in November last year, even fielding candidates in Peninsular Malaysia.
The elections saw Warisan put up its worst electoral performance to date, winning only three parliamentary seats and no state seats, of the 52 seats it contested.
A joint effort with Sabah Umno to unseat GRS chairman Hajiji Noor as chief minister also fizzled out in January, while Warisan suffered a series of defections involving its assemblymen.
It currently has 14 assemblymen in Sabah, compared to the 23 who were elected during the 2020 state election, and sits as the opposition in the state assembly together with Sabah Umno assemblymen.
Over the weekend, Hajiji hinted at a possible snap election although the state government still has about two years left of its present term.
Hajiji said there was a need for his party, Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah, to prepare for early polls, which might even be held next year.
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Lee Kuok Tiung said several parties were grappling with internal issues which they would need to resolve in anticipation of a possible early state election.
Lee said some parties, helmed by ageing leaders, were losing relevance among voters.
“There is a pressing need for these politicians to make way for younger leaders to step into leadership roles and bring fresh perspectives. Additionally, some parties are still in search of a new direction,” he said.