Few days before polling day for Sabah election, Anwar Ibrahim launched the “Meridian Move”. Muhyiddin Yassin was challenged, as if his fort had caught fire.
Based on the norm, Muhyiddin should remain in Kuala Lumpur to take care of the fire.
Instead, Muhyiddin rushed to Sabah for a final round of campaign.
At that moment, the Sabah election was crucial for Muhyiddin. His fate depended on Sabah.
Muhyiddin believes Sabah is his real battle field. As long as he wins Sabah, he will be able to offset those trying to oust him. The victory is not confined to Sabah only.
This is the strategy of a victory in Sabah means he wins the entire battle.
Whether a political observer or a member of public who is concerned with politics, they see Muhyiddin’s chance in Sabah as slim.
Political rallies organised by Parti Warisan Sabah were packed despite the fear of Covid-19 pandemic. Mohd Shafie Apdal was the shining star as the election icon. Many predicted him as the “David who is going to defeat Goliath.”
Several opinion polls also indicated that Warisan is leading. Of the total 73 seats, Warisan is predicted to win at least 40 seats. Some even forecasted Warisan to win more than 50 seats.
Politics is full of uncertainties. Muhyiddin was in a disadvantaged position. It was a matter of ` how many seats he will lose’. But the poll result was otherwise -not a miracle yet but a stunning result.
The Gabungan Rakyat Sabah ( Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional and PBS) led by Muhyiddin delivered better result than the forecast. Even the Parti Pribumi Bersatu in Sabah achieved unprecedented result. It might not have won many seats as Umno but its winning rate exceeded Umno.
People may ask, how does Muhyiddin win? How does Shafie lose?
Muhyiddin’s popularity was the key for him to win. The poll conducted by Merdeka Centre showed that Muhyiddin’s support in Sarawak and Sabah exceeded 90% ( 69% at national level).
Muhyiddin’s performance in combating the pandemic and the strategy to revive the economy have won recognition of East Malaysians. Such popularity has been converted into votes in the state election.
The Muhyiddin effect was used by the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah in the Sabah election. This has resolved the embarrassing scenario of having no candidate for Sabah Chief Minister. Muhyiddin’s image and his capability to attract votes is far more superior than Bung Mokhtar Radin in BN or Hajiji Mohd Noor, the Sabah chief of Parti Pribumi Bersatu.
Warisan’s strategy focuses on Shafie and sovereignty of Sabah to seek consensus from Sabah voters on Sabah ownership.
But there is a limit in terms of impact that Shafie and Warisan can generate. His main support lies with Sulu and Bajau in the east coast of Sabah and the Chinese in urban areas.
Shafie’ s image of siding Sulu and Bajau is like a label sealed on his head. The video clip of him promising to appoint Sulu and Bajau for high positions was circulated during the campaign which had drawn dissatisfaction among the Malays and Kadazan.
The people in remote area and west coast of Sabah were unhappy with Shafie who said during a campaign where he claimed that a talk should be held with Philippines on sovereignty and claim by Warisan leader Mohamaddin Ketapi that the Sulu invasion was `a show’.
The Upko which represents Kadazan, Dusun and Mulu groups suffered total defeat. This showed that the groups’ distrust of Shafie and drew a line to stay away from Upko. The voters of these groups voted for PBS and Star, a new party set up by the king of frog Jeffery Kitingan.
The Chinese in Sabah are still strong supporters of DAP and Warisan. Of the six seats contested by the DAP in Chinese area, DAP only lost one seat in Kadazan area, showing that since the Sandakan parliamentary by-election, the political inclination of Chinese remains the same.
However, Chinese voters are minority in Sabah and they are not king makers.
In a nutshell, Muhyiddin is the greatest winner in Sabah election while Shafie the biggest loser.
Muhyiddin did not only win Sabah but also resolved the mounting pressures coming from Umno and Answer pressing him to step down.
As expected, some Umno MPs may have valid reasons to request Muhyiddin quit once he loses Sabah and call for snap polls. By then, Muhyiddin, who lacks negotiation power to allocate seats for Umno, will have to comply.
Nevertheless, the plan is in limbo now. Muhyiddin’s victory proved that he was capable of garnering votes and Bersatu is capable. This enhances his power to fight for more seats for Bersatu and based on his schedule to call for general elections.
The Umno factions which have struck a deal with Anwar to overturn Muhyiddin are now in a catch 22 situation too. There may be some changes.
The Pakatan Harapan has placed its hope on Shafie to revert the weak position of the coalition through Warisan’s victory and even upgrade Shafie’s position to be the future Prime Minister. Pakatan Harapan’s hope is dashed and Shafie suffers huge setback. He will it hard to make a comeback, let alone saving Pakatan Harapan.
Sabah state election has concluded, Muhyiddin’s myth works. Everyone’s concern now is, will the myth be able to extend to general elections?
By : Tay Tian Yan – SIN CHEW DAILY