Warisan Plus Gets Set As Opposition Attempts Alliances

KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan Sabah is expected to make broad changes to its line-up of candidates as it prepares to do battle with a seemingly fractured but nevertheless potent opposition.

But unlike the May 2018 general elections when Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had to rely on a motley crew of political wannabes, this time he has the benefit of hindsight.

Especially when it comes to the question of who best to field for the coming state election.

Analysts are quick to point out that two years ago he had little choice in selecting candidates when he was taking on the might of Barisan Nasional led by Tan Sri Musa Aman.

Given that he was in opposition to the then ruling government not many good candidates even wanted to be seen in his company but things have since come full circle, they said.

Shafie is now free to choose from a bigger playing field and is widely expected to bring in more professional and grassroots leaders.

The caretaker chief minister who preempted a statutory declaration-supported takeover bid by Musa this week with the dissolution of the state assembly is also likely to insist on loyalty.

No surprises there as defections by 13 government assemblymen had helped Musa’s cause.

Analysts said Shafie would also expect the same level of assurance, in terms of loyalty and trust factors, from candidates put forward by his partners PKR and DAP of Pakatan Harapan and Upko.

In this election Warisan and its partners would be taking on BN’s Sabah Umno and its allies Parti Bersatu Sabah, Sabah Star and Sabah Bersatu.

A total of 73 seats are at stake this time – 13 more than the 60 contested in 2018 – and word has it that overlapping interests brought about by political realignments following the last election are making it difficult for the opposition to present a united front.

And there is also a new player, Parti Cinta Sabah, which was recently taken over by Musa’s brother Anifah. And if political gossip is to be believed, it is eyeing all the seats.

But according to the analysts Shafie is acutely aware that the opposition, fractious or united, is not to be taken lightly.

They have already begun to hold closed door meetings in an effort to forge new alliances or, at least, an understanding between them to take the fight to Shafie’s Warisan Plus coalition.

It is no secret that Shafie, given his influence in the east coast, may not face hurdles he won’t be able to overcome in constituencies there but the same cannot be said of the west coast and interior areas where the opposition arguably remains formidable.

According to analysts this is where Shafie would be looking to PKR, DAP and Upko to deliver in a big way to the coalition.

They said since Warisan Plus parties are already a force in state politics incumbency could work in their favour.

But this is not lost on the opposition parties given the speed at which they have been working to put their house in order even before the nomination and polling days are announced by the Election Commission.

Sabah Umno is already expected to decide on the number of seats it would be contesting tomorrow and Sabah Bersatu today announced that it was going for 45 seats.

There has been no word yet from the PBS and Sabah Star camps.

Seat negotiations are ultimately expected to take place between all the opposition parties.

But it remains to be seen if they can come together and present themselves as a united force to a politics-weary electorate.