Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal claims that there exists a grand plan to split votes in an attempt to topple Warisan Plus in the 16th Sabah state election.
The chief minister said this is evident from the unusually high number of contesting parties and candidates, who include several veteran politicians making a comeback.
According to him, despite the existence of a coalition proclaiming solidarity, the parties involved have their own desires and ambitions without being bound to any party.
He said their claim of consensus sounds hollow in the face of clashes in several seats involving partners of the coalition.
“I believe the people are not easily fooled by this approach, and I suspect that the aim of the opposition is only to split the support for Warisan and its allies like PKR, DAP and Amanah,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview at his residence recently. United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (UPKO) is also part of Warisan Plus.
This election is one of the most keenly contested in Sabah’s history, with 447 candidates from 15 parties including Independents vying for 73 state seats, compared to 349 candidates for both parliamentary and state seats in the 2018 general election.
Among the veterans making their comeback are former chief minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who is contesting in Inanam, and former communications and multimedia minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak, who is representing Barisan Nasional (BN) in Usukan.
BN and its allies Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) are clashing in 17 seats, including Bengkoka, Matunggong, Tandek, Kadamaian, Tanjung Aru, Sook, Telupid and Karamunting.
Mohd Shafie said he knew some of the candidates, who include family members, who were still dependent on aid given to them and realised that they were incapable of forming the government.
“They might be seizing this opportunity after certain people decided to sponsor them, encouraging them to tarnish the existing system, knowing that they are unlikely to win.
“I believe they were given support and also financial incentives to offer themselves (as candidates) to ensure that no seats go uncontested,” said Mohd Shafie, who is defending the Senallang seat in a five-cornered contest.
According to Election Commission (EC) data, all the 73 seats involve multi-cornered fights, with 11 being the highest number of candidates in a single seat. Five-, six- and seven-way contests are the most common.
Mohd Shafie, however, said Warisan Plus can rise to the challenge, as he believed the voters in Sabah are wise enough to make the best decision for the state.
According to him, this election is centred on the people’s desire to instal a local party capable of championing their rights, not an outside party deemed to be meddlesome.
“Their worry is that a party not based in Sabah would place them under a lot of constraints and pressure, to the extent of making it difficult to ask for candidacies and seats. They shout autonomy, but the fact is that there is no autonomy.
“Every party is going for not only the numbers but also excessive power, and as a result, there is no end to this scrambling for seats, I think even until now,” he added.
Citing an example, Mohd Shafie said Bersatu and UMNO still could not agree on the chief minister candidate for their alliance, and UMNO was given far more seats than Bersatu.
A total of 1.12 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in the election on Sept 26.