‘Prince of Usukan’ seen as BN’s best bet for Kota Belud seat

Barisan Nasional will bolster the odds of wresting the Kota Belud parliamentary seat in Sabah from Warisan by fielding an influential local “prince” for the general election, said an analyst.

(FMT) – Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said a “local boy” like former federal minister Salleh Said Keruak had better prospects of securing the seat than Umno Supreme Council member Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

“After Warisan won Kota Belud in GE14, the seat became a toss-up. BN would need all sorts of advantages, including having a native son as candidate, to win it back,” Oh told FMT.

He said it was vital for BN to regain Kota Belud as this would deny Warisan an important foothold in the state’s west coast.


Kota Belud’s MP is Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis of Warisan, who beat Salleh by 4,262 votes in the 2018 general election. In the 2013 election, Isnaraissah, then running on a PKR ticket, had lost to Rahman.

Salleh, who was Sabah chief minister from late 1994 to mid-1996, is now assemblyman for Usukun.

BN won two seats and Bersatu won one out of the total four state seats in Kota Belud in the state elections through Salleh (Umno) in Usukan, Arsad Bistari (Umno) in Tempasuk and Fairuz Renddan (Bersatu) in Pintasan. Ewon Benedick of Upko took Kadamaian.

On Friday, Rahman reportedly confirmed that he would be contesting the next general election, but left the choice of seat to the party’s leadership.

The Tuaran Umno chief, however, hinted that he was eyeing Kota Belud, which he held for two terms before moving to Sepanggar in GE14, where he lost to Warisan’s Azis Jamman by 12,984 votes.

Oh explained that for rural seats like Kota Belud, the main draw for voters would be handing out of material “goodies” as well as promises of development and jobs.

He said while both potential BN candidates might be equally capable of this, Salleh would be better accepted by the electorate due to his pedigree.

Salleh, a Bajau, comes from a prominent local political family. Among his ancestors were Orang Kaya-Kaya, and his father was the late Said Keruak, former state governor and chief minister.

Oh said all things considered, Salleh would have a better chance of winning because of his local roots.