Peninsular pressure will test GRS unity, Sabah Umno’s autonomy, says analyst

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KOTA KINABALU: An analyst says the Sabah chapters of Umno and PPBM will continue to face pressure from the party’s peninsular leadership despite their move to work together in the next polls under Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS).

UiTM Sabah’s Tony Paridi Bagang said this pressure would come from negotiations for seats between the two parties, and that it would “heat up” when the 15th general election arrives.

Tony Paridi Bagang.

“The issue of seat distributions will definitely have its effects if no agreement is reached among the GRS parties. Pressure from the peninsula, whether from Umno or PPBM, is bound to happen.

“This situation will be made clearer when Parliament is dissolved,” he told FMT, adding that the developments between Umno and PPBM in the peninsula would test GRS’ capability of staying together for GE15.

“It’s undeniable that Sabah politics is influenced by developments in the peninsula. This will be a litmus test for GRS, whether it can maintain its relationship and political cooperation.”

Bagang said the split between Umno and PPBM at the national level will also test how far Sabah Umno’s autonomy goes in deciding its own political direction in the state.

Lee Kuok Ting.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Lee Kuok Ting said it was possible that GRS parties would clash among themselves in certain seats in GE15, even if seat distribution among them were to go on smoothly.

He believed that most of the 25 parliamentary seats in Sabah had already been distributed among the component parties.

“But it’s not impossible for there to be ‘friendly matches’ among GRS components in two or three seats, like what happened in the last state election,” he told FMT.

On the whole, he believed that Sabah Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional and PBS had pledged to continue working under the GRS platform and would stay true to their commitment.

“Umno has amended its constitution to give Sabah Umno autonomy, so let it decide its own course, especially since Sabah Umno has decided to use the GRS platform,” he said.

During Umno’s annual general assembly yesterday, party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that BN would “go solo” in GE15, reiterating that its stand was, “No PPBM, no Anwar, no DAP”.

However, when met at the sidelines of the assembly, Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin said the state chapter would continue working with GRS, even in facing the next election.

Queried on the state’s stand a press conference last night, Zahid said he respected Sabah Umno’s decision and admitted that the political landscape in Sabah was “special”.

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