Opposition parties still fighting over seats in Sabah


WITH the 13th general election just around the corner, opposition parties in Sabah are desperately trying to work out a compromise and agree on a single candidate to take on the Barisan Nasional.

Knowing that failure to reach a compromise on a one-on-one with the BN may prove disastrous for them, the opposition parties are racing againts time to agree to a seat allocation formula acceptable to all parties.

There are 60 state and 25 parliamentary seats up for grabs in Sabah.

Months of negotiations appears to be heading to a futile conclusion with the peninsula and Sabah-based opposition parties each imposing themselves as more superior than the others.

The Sabah branch of the Sarawak-based State Reform Party (Star) headed by political nomad Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan has declared it may go on its own, while the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) is openly at odds with Pakatan Rakyat's DAP in Chinese majority seats.

Political analysts reckoned that going by the intensity of animosity between Sapp and state DAP leaders in their "tussle" for the Chinese-majority seats, it is highly unlikely they can reach a compromise.

Hoping to cash in on its so-called "Borneo Agenda" which entails greater autonomy for Sabah, both Star and Sapp are said to be eyeing as many seats as possible to achieve its objectives.

However, the loose opposition pact of Pakatan Rakyat are adamant on contesting the bulk of the seats, leaving only a handful of seats for the two Sabah-based opposition parties.

Disappointed with the PR stance, Star, judging from statements issued by its leaders, is almost certain to go it alone, while SAPP is hoping against hope of reaching a compromise with the PR.

On the contrary, the state BN has declared that it is fully prepared and geared up for the election, with the allocation of seats among the component parties and its list of candidates more or less finalised.

The only bone of contention is which among the state BN parties will get to contest the four state and two parliamentary seats won by SAPP which ditched the ruling coalition soon after the 2008 election.

The BN will also have to deal with the issue of which party should contest the Karamunting state as its assemblyman, Datuk Peter Pang, who won it on a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ticket in 2008 is now with Parti Gerakan.

For the BN, it does not matter whether or not the opposition parties can agree on a single candidate, as it focuses on addressing issues close to the hearts of Sabahans, especially the illegal immigrants problem and land customary rights ownership.

The BN government's seriousness and sincerity to solve the perennial illegal immigrant issue through the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate and recommend remedial measures has boosted support for the ruling coalition.

On the land issue, the state government has introduced the issuance of communal titles and is also in the process of identifying new measures to effectively deal with the problem.

Addressing the two issues is crucial for the BN to further improve support from young voters because the problem, if they remain unresolved, could affect their future.

Such concerns among the young voters is evident with many of them raising the matter through social media.

Described as the BN's "fixed deposit" after the ruling party nearly made a clean sweep of the seats up for grabs in Sabah in the 2008 election, losing just one state and parliamentary seats, Sabah will certainly be a focal point in the coming election.



Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman (third from right) with Parti Bersatu Sabah president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan (fourth from right) with leaders of Sabah Barisan Nasional component parties in Kota Kinabalu.

Writer is a NST Sabah bureau chief

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