|Political parties start gearing
up for the State elections
New Straits Times
14 July 1998
By Joseph Bingkasan
The heat is on in Sabah as political parties start gearing up for the State elections which must be held by March next year.
The Barisan Nasional, having ruled the State for more than four years, is confident of a new mandate with its unique power-sharing formula that could ensure continuity and stability in the State But Umno, the backbone of the State BN Government, is fully aware that victory will not come easy.
Umno incumbent State assemblymen are being reminded against assuming invincibility and against relying too much on the assumption that the people are fully behind them.
Sabah Umno liaison committee chairman Datuk Osu Sukam had directed the party leaders and assemblymen to continue strengthening their respective bases or risk defeats in the coming elections.
Osu, who is Kawang assemblyman, had declared there was no seat safe for Umno as well as the other BN component party members in Sabah. As a lesson to be learnt, he cited the defeat of BN by Pas in the recent Arau parliamentery by-election.
He said party members and leaders must discard the "we will win" attitude and not take things for granted just because some seats are considered traditional Umno strongholds.
Osu who is Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister, said co-operation between Umno and the other BN component members was vital.
The Sabah Umno chief's views had earlier been voiced by Sabah BN committee chairman and Chief Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok. He said Sabah was ready for the State elections and was confident of a landslide victory.
But it is up to Dompok to decide on the actual date for the State elections. After consulting the Prime Minister, he will decide when to hold the elections and for the State Legislative Assembly to be dissolved by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri.
State elections can only be carried out after the Yang di-Pertua Negeri dissolves the Assembly,and the Election Commission is officially informed of the dissolution.
Latest developments indicate that elections are around the corner, probably before the year end.The pointers include the move by the Election Commission to train election managers and other workers since March.
BN had also conducted mock elections in all constituencies and all political parties had activated their election machinery and embarked on political campaigns.
Election issues and the dissolution of the Assembly had been discussed by the State BN as well as all its component parties and the ruling coalition is only waiting for the blessing of a "higher authority".
In the present State Legislative Assembly Ummo has 23 seats, Parti Demokratik Sabah (11), Sabah Progressive Party (six), Angkatan Keadilan Rakyat Bersatu (three), Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (two) and MCA (one).
The Opposition comprises Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) with seven assemblymen and an Independent.
Other component members of the State BN without representatives in the Assembly are Liberal Democratic Party and Parti Gerakan.
The State elections this time will see former Chief Minister Datuk Harris Salleh back in the limelight with his new political party, Parti Barisan Rakyat Sabah Bersatu (Bersekutu). He had announced that Bersekutu, confident of creating an upset and forming the next State Government, would contest all the 48 seats.
Others joining the fray will be DAP and Pas.
It only natural that parties contesting in elections had and would continue to join the fray by openly declaring that each had the people's support and therefore will form the next State Government.
In the coming State elections, the prize (the State Government) will be up for grabs by three main contenders - BN, PBS and Bersekutu.
Leaders of these main political parties had openly assumed that each would emerge the winner. PBS and Bersekutu will be going into the polls against the might of the BN comprising Umno, PDS, SAPP, Akar Bersatu, Gerakan, PBRS, MCA and LDP.
The confidence of the BN, PBS and Bersekutu in their individual victory, at least on paper, cannot be ignored. Judging by the calibre of the leaders of the three main parties, one will make such a conclusion. BN being the ruling party will have an edge over PBS and Bersekutu.
In BN the people of Sabah will have leaders tested since 1994 and leading the way will be two former Chief Ministers - Datuk Salleh Tun Said and Datuk Yong Teck Lee.
PBS is headed by Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, a former Chief Minister (1985-1994). Bersekutu is not left out as its leader Harris is also a former Chief Minister (1976-85).
Dompok, Pairin and Harris can tell the world of their confidence in becoming the Chief Minister after the State elections but the final say will be the people through the ballot box.
A BN win will see Dompok as Chief Minister completing the two years rotation of the Chief Minister post as practised by the BN.
Victory for PBS and Bersekutu
will see the Sabah under the Chief Ministership of Pairin or Harris, both
not in favour of the rotation system.