by Murib Morpi
KOTA KINABALU April 19, 2013: The widely expected decisions by Pakatan Rakyat (PR), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and State Reform Party (STAR) to contest almost all the seats in Sabah, especially state seats, has given the Sabah Barisan Nasional’s (BN) chances of repeating its virtual clean sweep in 2008 a huge boost.
With the decisions, the opposition parties are doing the BN a big favour and make winning for the ruling coalition much easier as only a handful of seats are going to see one-on-one fights, and the BN is expected to be the biggest winners in multi-cornered battles where opposition votes would be split.
STAR Sabah yesterday said that for now it will contest in 35 state and 13 parliamentary seats but will add even more candidates just before nomination day tomorrow, as it expects “turncoats” from both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to cross over to them.
Judging from the lists of candidates announced by PR, Star and Sabah progressive Party (SAPP), voters in the State will yet again see a free for all election similar to the previous one held in 2008.
In the last general election, the BN made a virtual clean sweep of all the 60 state and 25 parliamentary seats, losing only one parliamentary constituency and one state seat to Democratic Action Party (DAP).
With the success of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) initiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, leaders from the BN component parties here are already confident of repeating their outstanding feat.
Out of the 48 candidates announced by STAR so far, 23 of them will be standing in areas which will also be contested by fellow state-based opposition SAPP, who have announced their own candidates for 41 state and eight parliamentary seats.
Almost all of the seats that STAR had confirmed to be contesting so far will also be challenged by the national opposition pact PR who had also released their respective list of candidates.
STAR president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said they were supposed to announce a full candidate list jointly with USNO, in conjunction with the launch of the party’s manifesto yesterday.
However, he said a decision was taken to delay the announcement after taking into consideration the fluidity of the situation and the changes taking place on the ground.
“There are still more people coming in, we have to keep this confidential at the moment, but soon you will know from which BN component parties they are,” he said, adding that the rest of the line-up will be sorted out and announced by today, once the party has taken into consideration the emerging “new development”.
Jeffrey however confirmed he will be standing in Keningau against his elder brother Tan Sri Pairin Kitingan, as well as the Bingkor state seat, which he had also contested but lost in the 2008 election under PKR’s ticket.
He also said 90 per cent of STAR candidates would be new faces from among professional individuals, who were chosen based on their outstanding qualities and commitment towards the party’s struggle.
At the event he also received membership applications from former PKR Sabah youth chief Jafery Jomion as well as several PKR members from Penampang.
Previously, STAR was reported to be contesting at least 41 state and 15 parliamentary seats, with its president confident of the party’s chances despite the anticipated multi-cornered fights.
STAR’s partner, USNO, also unveiled its own partial list, confirming candidates for eight seats, four of which will be also be contested by SAPP.
The candidates announced were for state seats of Banggi, Sekong, Tungku, Kunak, Balung and the parliamentary seats of Semporna, Tuaran and Kalabakan.
Its president, Datu Badaruddin Tun Datu Mustapha, said his party would announce three more candidates to be fielded for the Semporna seat seat as well as another candidate for the Silam parliamentary seat.
At the press conference, Badaruddin also clarified that USNO is standing on its own and not under STAR, although two of its candidates will be contesting using STAR tickets.
“We are standing on our own to prove to Umno and BN that USNO is still relevant in Sabah. The reason we are focusing on Semporna is because Umno said the area is their stronghold, and USNO in previous years had also said Semporna was its stronghold, so, we will see,” he said.