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Still no clear potential winner of Sabah Polls

KOTA KINABALU (Sept 25):  Up until 36 hours before polling, there is still no clear indicator which party will win the Sabah state election this Saturday.

It is still a neck-to-neck race especially between the two main contenders - Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Warisan Plus - to determine which coalition will rule Sabah for the next five years.

The chances for both sides of political divide is still open with 50-50 chance and what they do and who can win the hearts and minds of the voters in this last lap of campaign will determine their fate.

This is the conclusion drawn by Dr Zaini Othman, a political analyst who went to ground and carried out studies in most parts of the state during the election which offers 73 seats.

Zaini, who is also Sabah geopolitics and electoral researcher from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) said the absence of the clear indicator was probably due to the fact that the state election came as a bombshell and all the political parties and the voters alike were not actually prepared for it.

He said this caused internal bickering among the parties due to the dissatisfaction on the many hasty decisions made including in the selection of candidates.

These internal conflicts cause other implications to occur including elements of sabotage, members venturing out to contest as independent candidates and the revival of long-forgotten parties used as platforms for them to join in the fray.

“Thus, it is not surprising when there are 447 candidates contesting in this state election, which is greater than the number of candidates competing in the 14th General Election for the state and parliamentary seats combined,” he told Bernama.

Zaini said his studies indicated domestic concerns were more prominent compared to national issues, including the possible change of administration in Putrajaya  which was seen as a ‘cosmetic’ distraction that has no effect on the results of the state election.

Sharing his sentiment is a Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer and researcher, Dr Syahruddin Awang Ahmad who said prediction on which side would win could not be done for the clashing sides have their strengths and weaknesses, whether in terms of how well they could convey their campaign messages to the voters or address local issues raised by the people.

He said the clash between Warisan Plus and GRS is intense and only a few seats are expected to see large majority while the rest, especially those with multi-cornered fights, are expected to record a small majority.

GRS is made up of PN, BN and PBS while Warisan Plus consists of Warisan, DAP and Amanah as well as its allies UPKO and PKR. 

“Victory is still unpredictable until the night before the polls because issues that arose in the first and the second week of campaigning became liabilities to the candidates and parties from both blocs,” he said.

For Dr Romzi Ation, a political researcher with UMS, campaigning has reached almost its full throttle which is indicated by the increasing numbers of posters of the candidates and their constant presence on the ground.

Romzi opined that Warisan Plus was getting more and more attention from the people, however it was not easy for the coalition to win the hearts and minds of the voters this time around because GRS still have strong support in many of the constituencies.

“At this point, I see the chance of wining between Warisan Plus and GRS remains at 50:50,” he added.

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