|Polls soon as possible
The Daily Express: 29th Nov. 1998
KOTA KINABALU: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the Sabah election will be held "as early as possible".
"As early as possible...we can't go beyond a certain date. We can't go beyond April anyway," he told a news conference at the old Kota Kinabalu International Airport's old terminal building before his departure for the federal capital after a two-day working visit.
Dr Mahathir, who had said Friday that the coming State election would serve as a barometer for the future of the Barisan Nasional, expressed confidence that the BN would win in the election.
"I sense higher spirit and greater unity since my last visit. Everyone is enthusiastic to face the election. This is certainly good for the Barisan Nasional in Sabah."
On how far the Sabah election can be regarded as a barometer for the BN, Dr Mahathir who is BN Chairman, said:
"To a certain extent of course it is a barometer but it is not necessarily a complete measurement of the future of the BN."
The term of the present State Government ends on March 18, next year.
Dr Mahathir, who is Umno President, said so far he had not received the list of candidates from the State Umno to be fielded in the election.
Asked on the possibility that the general election and the Sabah election could be held simultaneously, he said: "We have to consider these things".
On whether the formula on the allocation of seats among Sabah BN component parties is being drawn up, he said: "No, not yet".
Responding to a question on whether there was any truth in talk that some incumbents aligned to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim may be dropped, Dr Mahathir said he did not know of anybody being aligned to the sacked Deputy PM.
The coming State election - the ninth since Sabah gained independence in 1963 - is expected to be one of the most closely contested in its history as there are two opposition parties that are equally vocal in their criticisms of the ruling BN.
In the last Sabah election in February 1994, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) won 25 seats to BN's 23, but the former lost its majority in the State Assembly a month later when many of its assemblymen defected to BN.
Political analysts said the coming election would be a test of the Sabah people's acceptance of the BN as a champion of the well-being of the various races in the State.
It would also be a major challenge for the opposition, especially PBS which would be keen to gauge its popularity after having lost its majority in the State Assembly.
With the Parti Bersekutu led by former Chief Minister Datuk Harris Salleh joining the fray, the polls would also indicate whether the people are comfortable with veteran politicians making a fresh bid for power.
While PAS is using the expulsion of Anwar Ibrahim to try and undermine BN's support in the peninsula, opposition parties in Sabah are expected to focus on economic issues in their attempt to garner votes.
However, the PM remained confident that whatever issues they raise would not affect BN's chances of being returned to power.