BY BOO SU-LYN
KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 – Multi-cornered contests throughout Sabah in Election 2013 will benefit the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in areas with a weak opposition, analysts said today.
They, however, stressed that multi-cornered fights for the May 5 general elections would not dent the opposition’s chances of victory in federal seats like Keningau or Beaufort, where voters choose based on personalities, rather than political parties.
“Multi-cornered contests will reduce the opposition’s chances of winning a max number of seats,” Sabah-based political analyst Dr Arnold Puyok told The Malaysian Insider today.
“In areas where the opposition is not strong, multi-cornered contests may benefit BN greatly, but in areas where personality factor counts more than party factor, multi-cornered contests don’t affect the opposition’s chances that much,” he added.
Puyok predicted that the opposition would win between five and six federal seats in the Borneo state – Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Beaufort, Pensiangan and Ranau – compared to the one seat in Election 2008, where the DAP won Kota Kinabalu.
The political analyst said that the pro-opposition sentiment among the Chinese was running high in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, while PKR candidates Richard Sakian Gunting and Jonathan Yasin (pic left) were popular in Pensiangan and Ranau respectively.
Multi-cornered fights have sprung up in Sabah between BN, opposition parties from Pakatan Rakyat (PR), local opposition parties SAPP and STAR, and numerous independent candidates on Nomination Day today.
The Keningau constituency will see the second battle between heavyweights incumbent PBS’ Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, who is his brother and the Sabah STAR chairman. PKR’s Stephen Sandor has also thrown his hat into the ring, making it a three-way contest.
Puyok pointed out that Jeffrey could win the battle for the interior seat of Keningau this time, noting that he was in a wheelchair during his first contest against Pairin in Election 2008, where he lost by 4,264 votes.
“Jeff’s STAR, it seems, has a more organised campaign machinery this time... Jeff looks more energetic now and has managed to thrill his supporters with STAR’s unique campaign style,” said Puyok.
STAR and SAPP are campaigning on restoring Sabah’s autonomy, while PR is urging voters to choose between it and BN in the opposition pact’s quest to win federal power in the May 5 polls.
Another three-cornered fight will take place in the Beaufort federal constituency between incumbent Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin, who defected from Umno to form the PKR-friendly PPS, STAR’s Guan Dee Koh Hoi and Umno’s Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun.
Political scientist Professor Jayum Jawan, who is from Sarawak, noted that Lajim enjoyed strong support.
“He is the so-called leader of the Bisaya people. That’s a very tough seat. BN will have to work double hard to win,” Jayum told The Malaysian Insider.
Lajim won Beaufort in Election 2008 with an overwhelming 10,914-vote majority.
Jayum similarly said that multi-cornered fights between opposition parties would give BN an edge, but said that independents would not create much impact, due to a lack of grassroots support.
The political scientist from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) expected the opposition to win six to seven federal seats in Sabah – including urban areas like Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau – down from half of the 25 parliamentary seats in his original forecast a few months ago.
“But I think because of multi-cornered fights, that might reduce the number of federal seats,” said Jayum.
Kota Kinabalu will see a three-cornered contest between Sabah DAP chief Jimmy Wong, PBS’ Chin Tek Ming and STAR’s Liew Hock Leong.
Sandakan, however, will see a straight fight between incumbent Datuk V.K. Liew from the LDP and DAP’s Wong Tien Fatt.
A four-cornered contest will take place in Tawau, where incumbent Datuk Dr Chua Soon Bui from SAPP will defend her seat against Datuk Mary Yap from PBS, PKR’s Datuk Kong Hong Ming and independent Ahmad Awang.
Political scientist Dr Faisal S. Hazis similarly said that incumbent Datuk Wilfred Bumburing, who defected from UPKO and formed the PKR-friendly APS, was popular in the Tuaran federal seat, compared to UPKO’s Datuk Wilfred Tangau, STAR’s Jasmin Dulin and independent Erveana Ansari Ali in the four-cornered fight.
“Generally you can see based on the personalities contesting, there are two main parties contesting,” said Faisal, who is from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.