The Future Of National Parties Versus Local Parties In Sabah

Flashback 2013: It's election fever in Sabah. The next general elections will either be multi-cornered fights between the BN and national as well as local opposition or will the electorate see an opposition pact.
Flashback 2013: It’s election fever in Sabah. The next general elections will either be multi-cornered fights between the BN and national as well as local opposition or will the electorate see an opposition pact.


KUALA LUMPUR – Peninsula-based Opposition parties will remain attractive despite the resignations of several leaders from Sabah PKR and DAP for local-based parties, political analysts said.

Dr Faisal S. Hazis, senior fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, pointed out that many Opposition lawmakers in the state had won their seats on a national party ticket.

Dr Faisal Syam Hazis
Dr Faisal Syam Hazis

“In fact, national Opposition parties provide a sense of continuity and sustainability that most local Opposition parties failed to provide,” Faisal told Malay Mail Online.

“Usually local Opposition parties can’t survive more than two elections, but not DAP and PKR,” he added.

Eleven leaders quit Sabah PKR and the DAP Sunday, including three assemblymen.

Sabah PKR chief Datuk Lajim Ukin, who is also Klias assemblyman, said he would be forming his own party, while Moyog assemblyman Terrence Siambun from PKR will be joining the new party started by former Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal
Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal

Sabah PKR state secretary Datuk Maijol Mahap and Sabah Wanita PKR chief Johair Matlani also quit their party yesterday. The four PKR leaders’ resignations came after former PKR vice-president Darell Leiking, who is Penampang MP, recently quit his party to join Shafie.

Seven Sabah DAP leaders also resigned Sunday, including Likas assemblyman Junz Wong who quit his secretary position in the state chapter. Wong said they would be joining a local party, but have yet to make a firm decision on their next move.

Dr Arnold Puyok, senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s Faculty of Social Sciences, said local Sabah parties must continue working with national Opposition ones, pointing out that the former performed poorly in the 2008 and 2013 general elections compared to the latter.

Dr Arnold Puyok
Dr Arnold Puyok

“At the state level in 2013 for instance, PKR and DAP won seven and four seats respectively and STAR only won one. SAPP did not win any at all despite its strong ‘regional outlook’,” he said when contacted.

“Local-based parties must not think that they can win support just by raising local sentiments alone. I think it is not the ‘political platform’ that is the main issue here but leadership and policy alternatives,” the analyst added.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said he doubted that local Sabah parties stood a chance in winning the next general election beyond the top leaders retaining their seats.

“This is because they lack the resources to penetrate, especially voters in the interior, which make up the majority of seats,” Oh said.

Dr Oh Ei Sun
Dr Oh Ei Sun

He said the DAP would likely maintain its performance in Sabah in the 14th general election, barring gerrymandering, noting that the national Opposition party mainly derives its support from the Chinese in the state who identify more with the nationwide desire for change than “parochial Sabahan sentiments”.

Oh also said the peninsular “worshipping” of PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, which he said has always been the party’s founding principle, doesn’t resonate in Sabah.

“Consequently, Sabah PKR becomes a vehicle of convenience for politicians who, for that moment, could not find another political vessel to accommodate their enormous ambition.

“When in these hugely egoistic politicians’ distorted opinions that opportunities present themselves to buoy these politicians’ ambitions, these politicians will abandon PKR for their new hopeful vehicles,” said the analyst.

Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, director of the Institute for Malaysian Political Analysis at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said the resignations showed the volatility of Sabah politics.

Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff
Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff

“However, at best, this move shows that Sabahans are fed up with peninsular-based Opposition parties, whom they think are only good at using them for the purpose of advancing their national political objective.

“It could be that the almost non-stop bickering between PKR and DAP in Sabah and Sarawak, plus their dismal performance in the recently held Sarawak state election, could have influenced their decision,” Kamarul told Malay Mail Online.

He added that judging from history, most of the contests in Sabah in the next general election will be multi-cornered.

“However, some sort of arrangement between major political parties is very likely,” said the analyst.

  • This article was first published in the MalayMail online.