When you have a general election result you don’t like, you don’t have another general election.– Nicholas Soames, UK member of parliament
Some things never change. The Sabah state election dust has hardly settled and Sabahans are now made to witness another critical situation — that of the race for the chief ministership.
But by now — after going through umpteen state polls — the people are only too familiar with the antics of Sabah elections. So, nothing to be shocked or surprised about.
At the time of writing this piece, the impasse over the issue of Sabah chief ministership has not been resolved. It’s now 11pm, almost 24 hours since the results were announced on Saturday.
Gabungan Rakyat Sabah or GRS comprising Sabah Perikatan Nasional (PN), BN and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) which together won 38 of the 73 state seats, is offering Sabah PN chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor as the candidate for the position of chief minister.
But Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, not to be outdone, has insisted on a chief minister from GRS coming from Umno, arguing that it is the biggest single party in GRS with 14 seats.
Ahmad Zahid’s Umno has valid arguments here for proposing its Sabah BN chairman Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin for the post.
PN’s 17 seats are contributed by two parties — Bersatu with 11 seats and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), six. PBS won seven. Confused? Ah well, Sabah politics can make one’s head spins! Adding to the confusion is the fact that GRS is not registered as a single coalition.
Both Hajiji and Bung Moktar sought an audience with the Head of State Sunday afternoon. They left without any decision from Tun Juhar Mahiruddin.
BN and PN apparently failed to reach a consensus on their candidate for the CM’s post after a two-hour meeting.
Also seen at Istana Negeri was STAR president Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan who apparently didn’t want to be left out.
It was reported that GRS has decided to leave it to the wisdom of the Governor to choose the new chief minister. Unless, something unexpected happens, the chief ministership is a toss-up between Hajiji and Bung Moktar.
In Sabah politics fortunes can change even within a few hours. The victorious three independents are also lending their support to GRS, giving it a 41-32 majority over the rival Warisan Plus coalition of Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
The GRS risks a coup with every passing moment.
Here’s why. By convention, the chief minister would quickly be sworn in who will then convene a special state legislative assembly sitting to appoint six nominated assemblymen to boost the new government’s majority.
Allow me to quote a Malaysiakini report:
“A system unique to Sabah, the nominated representatives enjoy the same rights as an elected state assemblyperson. Their vote also counts in keeping or changing the chief minister.
“This was what former chief minister Musa Aman tried to do after the May 9, 2018 general election. At the time, Musa’s BN was in a stalemate with the Warisan Plus alliance as both coalitions won 29 seats respectively. A total of 60 seats were contested in that election.
“The other two seats were won by STAR which Musa quickly cut a deal with the Sabah-based party for their support. He was then sworn in as chief minister on May 10, a day after the election.
“However, before Musa could convene a special state assembly sitting to appoint nominated assemblypersons who will be friendly to his government, Warisan president Shafie Apdal engineered a series of defections that cost Musa his majority.
“Shafie was then sworn in as the chief minister on May 12, two days after Musa was sworn in. Four days after that, Shafie appointed two nominated assemblypersons and another two in the following month.”
Hence the reason for GRS to move fast since Shafie might decide to repeat what he did in 2018.
There is a possibility that Jeffrey Kitingan’s STAR might want to throw in its support behind Warisan Plus. Shafie Apdal might even offer Jeffrey the deputy chief minister’s post. Now is the time for STAR to make demands.
Or let’s look at another scenario — not likely but not impossible. If Umno continues to be a pain in Sabah PN’s back for not backing down from its chief minister’s post demand, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu could consider backing Warisan Plus.
Bersatu has nothing to lose. Umno’s position in Sabah is not as strong as it used to be. Its seats are reduced by 50 percent to 14 this time against the 29 it had after the 14th general election.
Muhyiddin’s partnership with Warisan Plus will boost his position in Sabah in the 15th general election and also enhance his position in Malaya.