Sabah PH likely split over election alliances, says analyst

Lee Kuok Tiung says the decision will be down to which alliance offers a better chance of success, although Putrajaya is likely to have some influence.

(FMT) – Sabah Pakatan Harapan (PH) components are split over whether to partner with Barisan Nasional (BN) or Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) at the next state election, says an analyst.

Lee Kuok Tiung of Universiti Malaysia Sabah said some factions within PH prefer to replicate the PH-BN federal level partnership by working with Sabah BN, led by Umno’s Bung Moktar Radin.

Others, however, see Hajiji Noor’s GRS as the better ally due to its stronger local presence and influence.

“This divergence could lead to internal conflicts and splits within Sabah PH if a consensus is not reached.

“The decision will likely hinge on strategic calculations about which alliance offers a better chance for electoral success and long-term stability in the state government,” he said.

Lee believes GRS offers Sabah PH better prospects.

He said working with the coalition of Sabah-based parties would increase the likelihood of a commanding victory at the polls, which will allow for the formation of a stable administration.

“GRS has demonstrated considerable political strength and influence within the state. (This partnership) could also benefit Sabah PH in securing a broader voter base and ensuring effective governance,” Lee said.

Comprising local parties like Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), GRS currently leads the Sabah government with the support of PH and a handful of Umno assemblymen.

That support enabled Hajiji to ward off an attempt by Bung and Warisan president Shafie Apdal to unseat him as chief minister early last year.

Sabah PH — composed of DAP, PKR, Amanah and Upko — has assured Hajiji of its continued backing for the remainder of his term, even supporting his decision to decline a federal government initiative aimed at eradicating rural poverty in the state.

The Madani village development committee (JKDM) initiative was proposed by the federal rural and regional development ministry, led by BN and Umno chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and had Bung’s support.

 ‘Anything is possible in Sabah’

However, both Lee and Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said Sabah’s political dynamics are complex and fluid, with alliances yet to be formed for the state election, due to be held no later than Dec 9 next year.

Oh said that when it comes to forming political alliances “anything is possible in Sabah” despite the prevailing enmity between certain coalitions.

He also drew a distinction between electoral alliances and the formation of a ruling coalition, saying they are normally negotiated separately.

According to Oh, an electoral alliance is intended to allocate seats among component parties to ensure they do not end up contesting for the same seats.

“Even this is not set in stone, as parties in the same electoral alliance often sabotage one another. For example, a party could sponsor an independent candidate to ensure a supposedly brotherly party cannot win.

“They would rather let the other ‘rival’ side win because if the ‘friendly’ party wins, then that seat becomes the latter’s to keep in future elections,” he said.

Negotiations to form the ruling coalition, however, only take place after the election results are known, Oh said.

Given the many variables at play, Lee said the future of Sabah politics appears fraught with uncertainty.

He said Putrajaya may have a role to play in ensuring the stability in the state since almost all Sabahan political parties are a part of the federal administration.