Sabah PKR votes can make or break Azmin


(The Star) – As the PKR election enters its second week, the intensity has now shifted to Sabah.

Votes from the state are expected to decide once and for all whether Azmin Ali can retain his lead for the number two post.

Despite being in a strong position, the Gombak MP is facing a tough fight from his arch nemesis, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, who is said to be close to Sabah PKR chief Datuk Lajim Ukin.

With 86,955 members, Sabah has the second largest PKR membership after Selangor (144,020).

A source from Khalid’s camp said the Mentri Besar has an advantage in Sabah due to some of the members’ negative perception of Azmin, when he was in charge of the state.

“Some members view Azmin as the cause of PKR’s fall in Sabah. Khalid could be the favourite to take the lead this week,” he said.

The source added that Sabah is expected to see a bigger voter turnout, compared to 2010 party polls when only 20% of the members cast their votes.

In the first week, Azmin took an unassailable lead for the No. 2 post with 5,111 votes and Khalid, who came in third, garnered 2,228 votes.

However, a source close to Azmin’s camp believes the incumbent deputy president can widen his lead as he has backing from the grassroots.

“He looks strong on paper. He has support from the grassroots except for Penampang, Kota Kinabalu and Beaufort, which are said to be against him,” said the source.

Outgoing PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, who came in second after the first week of elections, might fall behind as he was not as popular as Azmin and Khalid in Sabah.

When contacted, Saifuddin remained upbeat and hoped to rake in more votes from the state.

“I think it is a very fair race, but I am aware that Sabah will be the kingmaker as it has a large membership,” he said.

Sabah, which has 26 divisions, will go to the polls with four other states. They are Perak (24 divisions), Kedah (15), Penang (13) and Perlis (three).

The PKR election, which started on April 26, will go on until May 11. The final results will be announced on May 13.