By Jailani Hasan (Bernama)
KOTA KINABALU, Sept 23 — An unusually tight contest – with an average of six candidates per seat – is making the people think hard about whom to vote for on Saturday in the 16th Sabah state election, according to an analyst.
Dr Romzi Ationg, a political researcher at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), said voter preferences may be slightly affected due to the crowded field of 447 candidates contesting in the 73 constituencies.
“The appearance of new faces (emerging young leaders), the return of old parties and the increase in the number of candidates and political parties will give a hard time to voters. Undeniably, they will be confused as to whom they should vote for,” he said in an interview with Bernama today.
He said his opinion is based the findings he has compiled from his walkabouts and interviews with voters in more than 40 constituencies.
“This election is making voters to decide cautiously before casting their vote because every single vote will determine the victory of a candidate and political party,” he said, adding that the strength of a party and the credibility of a candidate will be among the determinants.
Romzi also talked of the splitting of votes in this election due to the large number of candidates as well as cases of friendly parties pitting candidates against one another.
“We can assume that this election will be plagued by vote-splitting.
“When there are more than two candidates (from friendly parties), these candidates will split their common supporters’ votes and, possibly, hand victory to a less-preferred candidate, even the least-preferred.
“This happened in previous elections in our country and in other countries,” he said.
He said that usually the fear of vote-splitting is enough to force voters to take preventive measures, meaning the voters will usually have group discussions with their peers and families on whom to vote for.
Romzi also said it cannot be ruled out that elected representatives who had not performed well may find themselves unable to defend their seats this time around, thus providing the opportunity for the new faces with the qualification, experience and popularity to be voted in.
The analyst also touched on COVID-19 and said that despite the pandemic, voters must play their role in ensuring the stability of the Sabah government by voting in the best for the people in the state.
He said it is important to set aside emotions and support the candidates who uphold integrity.
Two major alliances – Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and Warisan Plus – eight parties and 56 independents are vying for the 73 seats in the 16th Sabah state election.
Whether they will figure in the next legislative assembly will depend on the votes of the 1.12 million voters who are eligible to go to the polls on Saturday.