TWO opposing political coalitions appear to be going out on a limb to win over Sarawak and Sabah ahead of the Nov 19 general election.
Barisan Nasional (BN) which lost the seat of federal power in 2018 is trying to bounce back to having the political dominance it once had over the country.
And Pakatan Harapan (PH) which toppled BN in 2018, only to lose power 22 months after, is trying to redeem itself in the eyes of a politic-weary electorate.
At the outset it would appear that both coalitions would need the strong support of Sarawak and Sabah to shore up their numbers given that the contest in the peninsula may turn out to be frayed at best with so many players in the mix.
Enter the seemingly mouth-watering offers from BN and PH to Sarawak and Sabah.
BN has promised to appoint three Deputy Prime Ministers, one each from Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsula, should the coalition regain power.
On its part PH has pledged to appoint two Deputy Prime Ministers – one from the peninsula and another from either Sarawak or Sabah should it win power.
Should both East Malaysian states be excited by the prospect of having a DPM from among their ranks?
By and large response from leaders in both states has been, shall we say, cautiously restrained. Understandably.
At this point it is fairly clear that BN and PH are courting Sarawak and Sabah who together have 56 parliamentary seats at stake, thus earning them, or least one of them, a reputation that they will be kingmakers in this election.
The question is why were Sarawak and Sabah never made such offers in the past. Isn’t it true that both had delivered through the ballot box for a strong central government each time?
It would appear that the 25 seats in Sabah and 31 seats in Sarawak will be badly needed this time to form a new government.
This begs the question whether the DPM offer is only only a gimmick, hence it will serve Sarawak and Sabah well to remain focused and stay cool.
Both states wield much muscle due to the support local political parties receive, specifically in Sarawak. As a result of rural voter support for local coalition parties’ control of the government, “lubuk undi” has become a common phrase.
Compared to the 19 seats won in GE14, it is not impossible for Sarawak to win even more seats this time around if this support is taken into consideration.
Things may be a little different in Sabah where the ruling GRS coalition comprises both peninsula based parties and local parties. Nonetheless, politics has always been akin to shifting sands in Sabah and it is anybody’s guess as to how things would turn out this time.
At this juncture both Sarawak and Sabah must plan strategically in order to win a large number of seats in the general election, never mind the DPM offer. That’s all that matters.
In the event it is to be taken seriously a transparent agreement on the DPM position must be signed between the stakeholders. This is due to the fact that one of the distinguishing characteristics of the political culture in Malaysia is that it is almost always muddled by unfulfilled promises. The Malaysia Agreement (MA63) is the best example.
The second highest position in national government, with the power to change national planning, strategy and direction is on the plate. Or is it just a political bait from two coalitions struggling for a lifeline?
** Dr Nur Aida Kipli (PhD) is a senior lecturer at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak.
The views expressed here are those of the analyst and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.