KOTA KINABALU: Senallang assemblyman Nasir Sakaran expects a stiff fight from the opposition as well as independents in the coming polls, but is optimistic that voters will remember what Barisan Nasional (BN) has done for them over the years.
Nasir, the son of former Sabah head of state and chief minister Sakaran Dandai, began his career as an assemblyman with Usno in the 1990 general election, when he won the Sulabayan seat.
He successfully defended Sulabayan in 1995 before contesting the Senallang constituency in the 1999 polls, which he won.
Nasir has never faced a one-to-one competition during elections, including in Senallang which is more than 70% Muslim Bumiputera.
In the last outing in 2013, five candidates vied for the seat but Nasir emerged triumphant with a 5,909-vote majority. The closest competitor then was PKR’s Mohd Amin Mem, who obtained 1,516 votes.
The other three candidates in Senallang were independents.
This time around, Nasir expects no less than three opposition parties and a handful of independents to try and wrest his seat.
“PKR will definitely field a candidate, maybe Amin again, while Pakatan Harapan Rakyat Sabah (PHRS) and Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) surely do not want to be left out,” he said.
PHRS is led by Lajim Ukin, the leader of the opposition in the Sabah legislative assembly. It is a component of the local four-party opposition coalition, Gabungan Sabah.
Nasir said he expected independent candidates as well, but added that voters had proven loyal to the ruling coalition ever since Usno’s days.
“The people in our areas always remember us. The party and coalition have done a lot of good for them, no matter who our political opponents are.”
He said BN and Umno had brought many positive changes to the constituencies in Semporna, which comprises Senallang and two other state seats, Sulabayan and Bugaya.
“We have had political stability and brought a lot of development to the area,” said the Semporna Umno acting chief.
“I’ve been constantly on the ground with the rakyat and the most important thing is doing my job, which is to serve the people.”
Sulabayan is held by Jaujan Sambakong, who was part of Umno before joining Warisan where he is now vice-president.
Bugaya meanwhile is represented by Sabah Assistant Finance Minister Ramlee Marahaban.
The parliamentary constituency of Semporna was won in the last election by Shafie Apdal on BN/Umno’s ticket before he left to form Warisan.
Nasir, who is now in his sixth term as a state assemblyman, said there used to be 481 Umno branches in Semporna. However, 22 branch leaders left with Shafie to join Warisan.
“Now, we have the remaining 459 branches still loyal to us. Although the heads of the 22 branches left us, their members are still loyal Umno members. So, our support is still solid.”
He said BN was optimistic of retaining Semporna in the coming polls, adding that the constituency had never yet fallen to the opposition.