Sabah is of particular interest during this 14th general election after the recent sacking of Shapie Afdal from UMNO and the Federal Cabinet when he aligned himself with the former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohammed. Shapie later formed a new political party WARISAN based in Sabah which is now growing into probably the most formidable force among the opposition parties in the state.
Party WARISAN is not formally aligned with the national Pakatan Harapan under Tun Mahathir, although he can hardly hide his close association with him prior to his fall out with Najib, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia. He likes to portray himself as the champion of Sabahan rights, but this special association appears to complicate his position in the eyes of Sabahans. Tun Mahathir is well known to Sabahans for his past extreme policies and actions than angered them when he was still the Prime Minister more than twenty years ago.
In spite of the above, Shapie who is an articulate speaker, managed to arouse sentiments of fellow Sabahans when issues of infringements of Sabah rights take centre stage in this general election. How far these sentiments could help him in his efforts to unseat the current BN state government will not be known until the 9th of this month after all the votes have been counted.
On the surface BN position in Sabah looks solid. It owns 22 of the 25 Parliamentary seats and 48 of the 60 DUN or the state assembly seats after the 13th General Election in 2013.
The voters in Sabah comprises three major racial groups as shown below:
Racial Group number of voters (14th GE) percentage
Bumiputera Muslim 617,037 55.65%
Bumiputera Non Muslim 325,840 29.39%
Chinese 165,887 14.96%
Total 1,108,765 100.00%
The Bumiputera Muslims form the backbone of BN strength in Sabah. My regression analysis indicates that 76.42% of them voted for BN in the 2013 General Election, compared with 33.6% of the non muslim Bumiputera and 22.8% of the Chinese voters. BN however managed to get disproportionate number of seats due to votes splits among the opposition group, as a result of three or multi cornered fights which are common in the Sabah scenario.
Will Shapie manage to cause a Tsunami among the voters, in particular the Bumiptera Muslims. Most views, except for the hardcore opposition analysts, do not believe that it can happen in this election. However, BN just cannot take things for granted. In Sabah anything can happen as people can suddenly change their voting preferance enmass as happened a few decades ago when Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s PBS Party defeated the reigning Berjaya government under Harris Salleh. My own empirical analysis of past election data also confirm there is no statistically significant party loyalty among the Sabah voters.
However, I do not think the above extreme scenario can happen in this election because the opposition leadership do not actually hold moral advantage over the BN government. It is hard to believe that Shapie Afdal who is closely associated with Tun Mahathir, the arch enemy of most Sabahans, is so clean or will fight for Sabah rights as Pairin once did in his younger days.
Probably party WARISAN would be able to make a dent, say chipping away 7-15% Bumi muslim votes from BN and another 7% from Bumi non Muslim voters away from the baseline data obtained in the 13th GE. If this occurs, the BN state government will survive the current onslaught. The seat forecast will now appear as follows:
Political Party DUN Seats to win in GE 14
BN MINIMUM BN MAXIMUM
Barisan Nasional 36 41
Opposition Parties 24 19
BarisanNasional will again manage to obtain disproportionate number of seats because of three or multiple cornered fights in all constituencies.
Salam, wallahu a’lam