KOTA KINABALU, June 30 — Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Joachim Gunsalam has edged out his rival in Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) polls to win the much-coveted deputy presidency by a hair.

The former vice-president beat former secretary-general Datuk Joniston Bangkuai for the post in arguably what was the most-heated contest in this year’s party polls by a five-vote margin.

According to the latest tally past midnight, votes stood at 339 for Joachim while Bangkuai got 334. There were 65 spoilt votes.

After a recount, outgoing deputy president Datuk Radin Malleh said there was no change in numbers and instead asked for a review of the spoilt votes.


When there was no change in decision, it appeared as though the Kundasang assemblyman had indeed won the seat for the non-Muslim Bumiputera quota, increasing his chances of eventually becoming leader of the oldest party in Sabah.

Incumbent president Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili, who retained his seat uncontested, told delegates he would retire in three years and wants the transition process to begin soon.

Typically, the president of the party is a non-Muslim Bumiputera following in the footsteps of founder and first president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, followed by Ongkili.


The position was left vacant this time after incumbent Datuk Radin Malleh declined to defend the position of deputy president.

The other two positions were filled by incumbents Datuk Jahid Jahim for the Muslim Bumiputera quota and Datuk Yee Moh Chai for the Chinese quota.

Yee beat rival Datuk Yong Oui Fah by a 200-vote majority for the post.

A total of 131 candidates vied for the five presidential and 16 supreme council member positions during the internal polls, the highest in the party’s history.

PBS is the oldest party in Sabah currently, formed in 1985 by Pairin to take down the then ruling Berjaya government.

Having succeeded in its quest, the party spent several terms as the ruling government before the infamous 1994 election which spawned the start of the “katak” phenomenon where several of its elected representative switched sides. These defections led to the government losing its majority.

Since then, PBS joined Barisan Nasional (BN) but left following the losses incurred in the 2018 general and state elections but remains allies with the current Perikatan Nasional-BN coalition.

The party officially adopts a “Sabahan multi-racial platform” but has a largely Kadazandusun base.

It is most vocal about addressing Sabah’s undocumented migrant issue that is complicated by “Project IC” as well as the loss of the state’s rights as prescribed under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.