COMMENTARY, Jan 15 — Campaigning in the Kimanis parliamentary by-election is in full swing and the temperature has reached boiling point as both sides race against time to win the hearts and minds of 29,664 voters.
With two days left until polling on Saturday, the contest has peaked with both sides claiming “foul” play.
So many issues have been raised by leaders of contesting parties, but according to local observers, two main issues are actually on the minds of voters.
First is the Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS) that they are worried could cost them employment.
A group 400 Sabahans gathered in Membakut town today to protest the controversial issue raised by Opposition Barisan Nasional (BN).
The straight fight for the seat is between the ruling Parti Warisan Sabah that is fielding former five-term representative Datuk Karim Bujang and BN’s Mohamad Aladin.
In fact, the issue has been plaguing the state since before the campaign and has yet to be resolved either by the previous government or the present.
It is a touchy issue and significant to the locals.
Another issue is loyalty to the individual or party.
Loyalty may or may not have an expiry date, but the voters are more or less decided on their choice.
Former MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman is not contesting the seat, but his many followers are still loyal to him despite his resignation from Umno, according to observers.
In fact, BN’s election machinery here comprises Anifah’s people who are still loyal to him and BN.
Loyalty plays an important role in Sabah as a political philosophy and concept as it is less developed than peninsula states.
For Warisan, the theme of “Sabah for Sabahans” is key to gaining support in the state and in Kimanis but its candidates must still be popular.
Given the scenario, claims of vote buying and poster removals seem to be the trend in the last few days while issues in the campaign have narrowed down to livelihood concerns instead of national matters.
Thus far, the vigorous campaign trail since January 4 has brought all top leaders of the parties involved to the semi-urban area some 40km away from Kota Kinabalu.
Except for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the voters have seen and shaken hands with all government and Opposition leaders and heard their “reasons on who they should vote for”.
In fact, Anifah himself appeared on the campaign trail for BN, which adds extra weight to the Opposition’s position.
It is a very tough race and the stakes are high but local observers say BN seems to be leading as for now.
Whether BN can do a Tanjung Piai in Kimanis is unclear, but observers seem to be betting their money on BN.