KOTA KINABALU: In a surprising development, Barisan Nasional (BN) will cross swords with its allies Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) in 17 of the total 73 seats in the 16th Sabah state election.
The seats are Bengkoka, Telupid, Lumadan, Matunggong, Tandek, Kadamaian, Kapayan, Karamunting, Melalap, Sook, Bingkor, Moyog, Tulid, Paginatan, Liawan, Tambunan and Tanjung Aru.
Most of the constituencies are located in the interior, central and northern Sabah.
They are not facing each other alone, as candidates from the Warisan Plus coalition comprising Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan), DAP and Amanah as well as other parties and independent candidates have joined the fray.
In this election, BN is represented by UMNO, MCA and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), PN by Bersatu, Sabah STAR and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) while PBS is contesting under its own symbol.
Prior to nominations today, they had agreed to use their respective party logos in this election.
Apart from the 17 seats, tough fights can be expected in Api-Api where incumbent Datuk Christina Liew, who is Deputy Chief Minister and Sabah Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chairman, will be challenged by prominent leaders in a nine-cornered fight.
Her challengers include Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president Datuk Chin Su Phin, PBS deputy president Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) deputy president Datuk Pang Yuk Ming and prominent lawyer Marcel Jude, who is contesting on an independent ticket.
Another hotly contested seat is Sulaman where six-time incumbent assemblyman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, the Sabah Bersatu chief, will face off with Datuk Aliasgar Basri, who was his deputy chief when they were both in Tuaran UMNO division.
Aliasgar, who is also Hajiji’s nephew, is now contesting under a Warisan ticket.
Datuk Rekan Hussien of PCS has also joined the race in that constituency.
There are no straight fights in this election as all seats involve multi-cornered contests, with a minimum of three candidates and maximum of 11 each. Five-, six- and seven-cornered fights are the order of the day for the election, polling for which is on Sept 26.
It is a crowded field, with PCS, led by former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, contesting in all 73 seats, followed by Warisan (53 seats), United Sabah National Organisation (USNO) (47 seats), LDP (46 seats), BN (41 seats) and PN (29 seats).
Other major contenders are Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Gagasan) (28 seats), Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah (23 seats), PBS (22 seats) and United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (UPKO) (12 seats), while PKR and five other parties are contesting single-digit seats.
There are 56 independent candidates in this election.
Only the nomination papers of one prospective candidate were rejected, because he is a bankrupt.
They are 404 men and 43 women contesting in this election, which was called following the dissolution of the state assembly on July 30, a day after former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman claimed to have the majority to take over the government led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
Mohd Shafie is defending his seat in Senallang in a five-cornered contest.
Musa, the incumbent Sungai Sibuga assemblyman, is not contesting in this election.
Former federal ministers Datuk Darell Leiking, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi and Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia are contesting in Moyog, Usukan, Segama and Pintasan respectively.