COMMENTARY, Sept 20 — Political parties participating in the Sabah state election have already identified the seats that they are confident of winning.
Except for Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) headed by Datuk Seri Anifah Aman which is contesting all 73 seats, the rest are contesting less than 60 and none expect to win every seat they are fighting for.
Leaders from the Peninsula do not find it easy to understand the minds of the Sabahans; there is a strong sense of loyalty to the tribe and clan above everything else, so local candidates fielded by contesting parties can be considered as having won nearly half the battle.
At the same time, voters also take into consideration which parties serve them better and their choice may not be local-based parties.
This means leaders from both sides of the political divide are not really confident that the seats they identified as white — meaning already in the pocket — won’t change colour on polling day.
Another factor to consider for the main parties — Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) — is their partners’ contribution in making up the numbers to win or increase the majority.
Such is the situation now where leaders are walking the rocky path carefully as one misstep may be “fatal.”.
BN has a strong following in about 31 seats where the members have not moved despite party setbacks and this has become the party’s baseline which leaders and members are strengthening in the next five days.
The party leaders are hoping its partners Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) will contribute a minimum of five seats with Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) adding another five to make up about 41, a figure safe enough to govern the state.
However, the setback is Bersatu is new... so new that it does have a single base in the state and even the election machinery is BN’s own.
As for PBS, it is a party that needs revival as it has lost its Huogan Siuo — an undisputed leader — but the party still has followers that can be counted on.
For Warisan, its president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has the stature, but tribal considerations put him at a disadvantage as other tribes do not consider him as their leader. But despite that, Warisan has about 16 seats for sure.
He expects his partners PKR to add five, DAP six and the rest from Upko to make up about 40 in total.
But these are all figures which change every day according to who speaks at the ceramahs and what issues are raised.
The absence of a central issue has made the campaign directionless and no one party can claim they know the real issues and no one party can claim they are in the lead.
The ball is still being dribbled in the midfield and has yet to enter the penalty zone of either side.