Crowded field and lost aura could end in ‘hung’ election

(FMT) – A crowded field in the Sabah state elections could lead to a fractious outcome on Sept 26 after the ballots are counted, say political observers.

They wonder if the two contending coalitions, Warisan Plus and Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), could attain a simple majority of state assembly seats when the results are in.

Both coalitions face problems of voter confidence.

For Warisan Plus, it is a question of lost aura, after Warisan and its allies came to power in 2018. For GRS, the question is whether they can survive the friendly fire from allies contesting against each other in 17 seats.

A repeat of the 2018 election results could be possible, in which no single group wins more than half of the seats to form the next state government.

The “friendly fights” in the 17 seats contested by parties in Perikatan Nasional and Barisan Nasional, which form GRS, will undermine each other, and could result in these parties not producing a convincing victory.

Local political observer Hamid Ismail said GRS would face big problems if it did not resolve the clashes among its component parties.

“If nothing is done, these clashes are bound to give a negative impression about the trust and relationship between the parties in this alliance,” said Hamid, a lawyer who has contested before.

Political pundits also wonder if election workers from Umno and PPBM as well as other component parties in the GRS alliance would cooperate and work together.

“If Umno and PPBM machineries can work together, they are unstoppable. That is a big if,” said former chief minister Yong Teck Lee whose SAPP was a recent PN component sign up.

Political observers here said the multi-cornered contests in all of the 73 seats was bound to pull away votes from PN-BN and Warisan Plus.

“There are 447 candidates for 73 constituencies or an average of 6 candidates contesting for each seat. Surely this will have an impact on the PN-BN and Warisan Plus,” said an observer.

Hamid believes that Warisan would be the most impacted with the presence of the smaller parties such as Parti Cinta Sabah and LDP.

“Warisan Plus no longer enjoys the powerful aura as it did in the 2018 polls. I expect PCS and LDP to win in some seats now held by Warisan,” he said. “Some other parties and independent candidates think they can be the kingmaker. It may happen,” Hamid added.

If indeed this comes to pass on Sept 26, then existing alliances could be reshaped and the make-up of the next Sabah government remains an uncertainty.