COMMENTARY, Sept 17 — The ongoing Sabah state election has revealed one important factor: Sabahans have changed their way of thinking and no longer idolise political leaders.
This shift has made it more difficult for parties campaigning and trying to accurately assess their level of support.
Issues such as the Malaysia Agreement 1963 were no longer prominent. Barisan Nasional election director Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin’s corruption case was overshadowed by Sabahans’ concerns about the local economy, jobs, and rising prices.
In short, voters are looking at the realities of life rather than political rhetoric and politicians’ scrambling for positions.
The campaign rallies have not attracted crowds. Voters prefer to watch these online, at home or with their friends.
They now watch and think, unlike before when they attended the ceramah in droves to shout based on emotion.
Political parties are concerned as they cannot assess voter sentiments.
Caretaker chief minister minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is finding it hard to sustain his popularity and rally enough support outside his own community to keep his Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) in power.
At the same time, Barisan Nasional (BN) and allies Perikatan Nasional (PN) have difficulty penetrating Warisan strongholds.
No side can claim an advantage and have to be careful not to upset voters.
Ask any voter who they prefer as chief minister, the answer is the person who could bring development to the state.
Ask them if Bung is fit to be chief minister, they say he is a good man, easily accessible, down to earth may be a chief minister.
In short, not the first choice.
Ask them if Shafie should be given a second chance, they say he had his chance but did not deliver.
So, Sabahans have yet to think about who should be chief minister.
Political leaders on both sides are still trying to woo voters.
Party strategists put Warisan Plus and BN-PN on par.
Both sides still have time to review their approach as polling is still nine days away.
The fear is that neither side will gain a majority, which could result in a hung assembly.