KOTA KINABALU, Sept 18 ― As campaigning in the Sabah state election reached its halfway mark today, many candidates have ventured out of their home venues to pitch in for party comrades amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the first two days, most of the 447 candidates from 15 parties especially party leaders focused on the constituencies they are contesting in.
They included Sabah Umno and BN chairman Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, who made his rounds in the Lamag seat he is contesting, which comes under the Kinabatangan parliamentary constituency.
So too were Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, Sabah Bersatu chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, PBS deputy president Datuk Radin Malleh and STAR president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, who concentrated their campaigns in Senallang, Sulaman, Melalap and Tambunan respectively.
However, of late Hajiji, Mohd Shafie, Bung Moktar, Radin Malleh, Jeffrey and several other party leaders have been travelling to various parts of the state to help out their party candidates.
Federal leaders have also descended on the Land Below the Wind, including Prime Minister and Bersatu president Tan Muhyiddin Yassin and Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who were helping in the campaign of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), which comprises BN, Perikatan Nasional (PN) and PBS.
DAP’s top guns like secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Gobind Singh Deo and Lim Kit Siang, and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim were also on the ground conducting ceramah and meet-the-voter sessions for candidates from Warisan, Upko and PKR.
Among the day’s highlights was former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman speaking at a campaign for the first time, in support of Datuk Joniston Bangkuai of PBS, who is defending the Kiulu seat in a six-cornered fight.
Musa, who made a surprise appearance at a PN function in Beaufort yesterday, then proceeded to Tamparuli and Tuaran to continue his campaign.
“Watch out for this man (Musa). His presence might influence the election results,” said a local political observer.
Upko president and Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Madius Tangau is among the five candidates challenging Joniston.
Although the battle for power is mainly between GRS and Warisan Plus, other parties like Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS), Usno, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Gagasan) and Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah (PPRS) cannot be taken for granted as they have their own strategies and are contesting in many seats.
Only GRS, Warisan Plus and PCS are vying for all the 73 seats up for grabs while USNO has 47 candidates, LDP (46), Gagasan (28) and PPRS (23).
Among the hot seats are the 17 which see GRS partners clashing among themselves -- Bengkoka, Telupid, Lumadan, Matunggong, Tandek, Kadamaian, Kapayan, Karamunting, Melalap, Sook, Bingkor, Moyog, Tulid, Paginatan, Liawan, Tambunan and Tanjung Aru.
Another keenly contested seat is Api-Api where the incumbent, Deputy Chief Minister and Sabah PKR chairman Datuk Christina Liew, is challenged by, among others, LDP president Datuk Chin Su Phin, PBS deputy president Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai and PCS deputy president Datuk Pang Yuk Ming in a nine-cornered contest.
Over in Sulaman, incumbent Hajiji is also facing a stern test in a six-way fight, especially from his nephew Datuk Aliasgar Basri of Warisan.
The main issues being raised in the campaign include ties between the state and federal governments, Sabah rights, state resources, basic amenities, illegal immigrants and oil royalty.
Only GRS, Usno and PCS have unveiled their manifestos so far.
The poster war has also gone full swing with party flags and banners lining the streets and taking up strategic spots in villages and towns.
The campaign is expected to further heat up in the second week before polling on September 26.
A total of 1.12 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in this election. ― Bernama