Is Sabah, Sarawak advance mission impossible for Pakatan?

BY RAM ANAND
Sri Ganesh said budget hotels were also struggling to fill up rooms as tourist traffic were said to have dropped, primarily due to the Goods and Services Tax (GST). — Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Fortune favours the bold, but Pakatan Harapan’s chances in expanding its toehold into Sabah and Sarawak for the next general elections are very slim currently, political analysts said.

The three-member Opposition pact may now be four and gunning to be a formal pact to break the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s two “fixed deposits”, but rural voters in Borneo Malaysia are unlikely to switch to fledgling parties with questionable motives.

“I think there is no chance for them,” Universiti Malaysia Sarawak political analyst Prof Jeniri Amir told Malay Mail Online bluntly, when asked of Pakatan Harapan’s campaign on the other side of the South China Sea.

Jeniri attributed it to prevailing sentiments in the rural constituencies in Sabah and Sarawak which still favour the 13-party BN, believing there will be little change in terms of seat victories for the Opposition that were largely limited to the towns.

“Worse case scenario, the Opposition will lose one or two extra seats in Sarawak [compared to 2013], and four to five seats in Sabah,” he predicted.

This is also due to two Pakatan pact members, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), both having just been formed in the last two years, Jeniri said.

“Yes, they know they can’t make inroads because for Sabah and Sarawak, you need heavy machinery there,” he said.

Pakatan’s other two members, PKR and DAP, have also been weakened by the performance in the Sarawak state election last year. The more heavyweight parties also recently lost key Sabah leaders who resigned only to forge their own alternative, local-based Opposition parties, or join the newly sprouted ones.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Faisal Hazis said Pakatan had missed the boat in deepening its presence in Sabah and Sarawak due to infighting.

“I think in 2013 the ground was more ripe for them to make strong inroads, but they were unable to because there were multi-cornered fights,” he told Malay Mail Online.

He added that the BN’s clean sweep of Sarawak in the 2016 state election is an indicator of the general elections outcome in Borneo Malaysia.

As such, the two east Malaysian states will continue being the BN’s “fixed deposits”, he said, unless Pakatan can bring together all federal and state-based Opposition parties.

“The Opposition leaders need to set aside their personal egos and also their selfish parochial interests to bring everyone together,” Faisal added, saying that the disunity among Opposition parties will be a “significant” factor working against Pakatan during elections.

Oh Ei Sun, senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said that it is “unrealistic” to expect the Opposition to take both states in the next election.

“Only Warisan is likely to make an impact,” he said, referring to the Sabah-based party founded by former federal minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal who had helped establish Umno’s presence in the north Borneo state, especially along its east coast.

“But it is even unclear whether such an impact would benefit which side,” Oh added.

In Sarawak where Umno has no presence, he sees the BN as likely to improve on its electoral performance due to the positive effects of the late and much loved former Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, whose policies are continued by his successor Datuk Amar Abang Johari Abang Openg.