Analysts: Warisan can’t fight alone after Pakatan snub, needs partner to stay relevant

A Parti Warisan Sabah flag is pictured during the Sabah state election campaign in Luyang, Sabah September 14, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A Parti Warisan Sabah flag is pictured during the Sabah state election campaign in Luyang, Sabah September 14, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KOTA KINABALU, April 8 — After Parti Warisan Sabah distanced itself from Pakatan Harapan, political analysts have warned that the East Malaysian party will need to team up with a national-level political party if it wishes to remain relevant to voters.

The analysts also suggested that Warisan may benefit from a partnership with Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), as the latter is currently facing roadblocks from registering with the Registrar of Societies.

“The move would be important, what else can they do,” said Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun.

“To remain politically relevant, Warisan would have to articulate how its self-proclaimed independent positions are superior to those of the major coalitions. It could indeed team up with other more or less independent parties such as Muda such that they could eventually evolve into a credible and viable third force to be reckoned with,” he said.

The party, which has had considerable success in Sabah having partnered with DAP, PKR, Parti Amanah Negara and Upko, recently divulged that it was no longer part of the PH Plus coalition.

Oh said teaming up with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR or Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang was an option to get more traction in Peninsular Malaysia, but this may not be likely given Shafie’s tiff with Anwar.

“They will have to calculate the cost and benefits. For example, working with Dr Mahathir or Anwar, what are costs and benefits,” asked Oh.

An analyst with a local think tank who wanted to stay anonymous said that Shafie’s vision was a progressive one — to work with Syed Saddiq and the younger generation — but both parties were still untested and may need to ride on a bigger platform.

“They do not have the base that PKR, DAP, Umno or PAS has. In Malaysia, you still need that kind of grassroots to really gain ground,” he said.

However, he did not deny that the parties, if they combined efforts, could form a small bloc with Warisan’s stronghold in the east coast and Bajau-centric seats and Syed Saddiq’s young urban base.

“This may be enough for them to be a small but significant kingmaker,” he said.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah political analyst Romzi Tiong said that teaming up with a Peninsula-based party may not be enough, and Warisan will need some big changes in order to keep its current momentum and attract more voters for its party which is relatively new especially in the Peninsula.

“The last state election saw Warisan Plus lose its grip on seats when it collaborated with PH. This is certainly due to its obligation in compromising some seats for PH.

“Though, Warisan did not necessarily gain influence with such a decision, there is a possibility the party be able to gain some seats which were contested by its alliance in the next election,” he said.

He said that because Warisan has shown it could not make inroads in the west coast or interior seats with a majority of local voters, Romzi said it needs to amend its political approach and attitude, especially among the top leaders, if it aims at securing more seats.

“At the moment, I see no significant indication that voters will support Warisan in many constituencies, especially in KadazanDusun-Murut areas.

“It can work on amending its political approach, which means no more elitist style and internal disintegration,” he said.

Romzi said while a partnership with Muda may help its introduction to Peninsula, it won’t gain any favours in Sabah, where patronage politics still reign.

Shafie’s Warisan first came into the fray in 2016 after he was kicked out of Umno for criticising then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s handling of the 1MDB controversy. Shafie said he wanted to topple the state government then which came true in May 2018 during GE14, ousting Barisan Nasional in the state for the first time.

However, during a forced snap poll in September 2020, Warisan lost the state to the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah coalition, a combination of his former comrades in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Umno and other parties.

Shafie, who had a loose pact with Pakatan Harapan Plus, decided to cut ties when former Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia leader and prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned and was ousted from the party.

He has since said that the time of Anwar and Dr Mahathir is over, and that he is looking to spread Warisan’s wings to Peninsular Malaysia and build up its presence there with a view of working with the next generation of potential leaders.

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