With 38 seats in the bag, the Muhyiddin Yassin-endorsed Gabungan Rakyat Sabah looks to have effectively claimed the Land Below the Wind from Shafie Apdal and his allies.

But even as the official seat tally from Saturday's nail-biting polls tells one story, there might still be a couple more twists and turns before things are finally settled. For one, we still don’t know who’s gonna be named big boss, a.k.a chief minister. Also, there’s talk about deals being struck the dark. And as if all that drama wasn’t enough, Sabah and the rest of the country's Covid-19 numbers appear to be going up and up and up.

East side story

Win, lose and draw

It was always gonna be tight. And when the dust had settled after polling on Saturday, it was the loose coalition of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) had nicked the state elections from Parti Warisan Sabah and its allies.

 

GRS – comprising Perikatan Nasional, Parti Bersatu Sabah and Barisan Nasional – did indeed seem like a fractured unit heading into the polls, not least ’cos its members didn’t look like being able to put aside their differences with regard to who among them is top dog. 

Thing is, despite all the egos, the tantrums, bitching, sniping and multi-corned contests, the pact did just enough to secure victory by bagging 38 out of 73 seats – a two-seat majority. What’s more, three triumphant independent candidates have since thrown their lot in with GRS, bloating the group’s number to 41 now.

 

Warisan Plus, the loose pact of Warisan, DAP, PKR, Upko and Amanah led by caretaker chief minister Shafie Apdal, meanwhile, was found wanting. It essentially came in five seats short of being able to retake the state government with just 32 constituencies won.

 

According to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, GRS’ victory shows Sabahans have faith in GRS. It’s a sentiment echoed by the PM’s most devoted acolyte, Azmin Ali, who further notes that the win’s really all about the rakyat being behind MooMoo. Kiss ass!

 

Nevertheless, while Moo and GRS appear to have the numbers and the wheels set in motion for a new chief minister to be appointed (more on that later), incumbent state boss Shafie’s not throwing in the towel just yet. He has yet to concede defeat, not in any formal sorta language anyway.

 

Alluding to the constitutional convention of a CM being appointed from the single party with the most seats in the state assembly, Shafie’s noted late Saturday that it was his party Warisan that ended polling day with the most seats (they bagged 23). Time’ll tell if that plays a part in the decision on the new state leader. 

Meanwhile, here’re some facts and stats from the 16th Sabah polls:

  • A total of 749,083 people cast their ballots. The Election Commission had said it’d hoped for a 70 percent turnout, but only got 66.61 percent, in part ’cos of bloody Covid-19. For the record, the voter turnout was 77.53 percent in 2018, when the state polls were held simultaneously with GE14.
     
  • While GRS bagged a cumulative total of 38 seats, only four of the pact’s member parties claimed victory. These are Umno (with 14 seats), Bersatu (11) PBS (seven) and Parti Solidariti Tanak Airku a.k.a. STAR (six). The Sabah Progressive Party, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah and MCA got zilch.
     
  • Warisan Plus’ 32 seats meanwhile came from Warisan (23), DAP (6), PKR (two) and Upko (one). Amanah returned nothing.
     
  • The three indies who’ve since decided to back GRS are Rubin Balang of the Kemabong state seat, Ruddy Awah (Pitas), and Masiung Banah (Kuamut). You might remember ex-Upko member Masuing as being one of 33 assemblymen who sided with former CM Musa Aman back in July but ended up not being fielded as a candidate by GRS.
     
  • There were losers and winners aplenty on Saturday, but among the biggest surprise wins was, no doubt, the 75 percent win return registered by Frog King Jeffrey Kitingan’s STAR party. STAR contested eight seats and won six, thereby bettering its showing in GE14 where it’d bagged just two state and one Parliamentary seats.

    Also among the shocks was Warisan Mohammadin Ketapi’s impressive win in Segama despite putting his foot in his big fat mouth in the run up to the polls. We’re referring to those stupid ass claims of the Lahat Datu incursion being a sandiwaralike anyone could forget.
     
  • Among the biggest losers, meanwhile, was Anifah Aman. The former foreign minister’s party, Parti Cinta Sabah, had fielded candidates in every single seat but won nada. Still, Musa Aman’s baby brother says he’s happy with the support shown to his party. Here’s looking at the glass half full.
     
  • Oh and speaking of losers, as many as 275 jokers lost their deposits after failing to get one-eighth of the total votes in their constituencies. Parti Liberal Demokratik honorary life president Chong Kah Kiat and el presidente Chin Su Phin were the biggest names among the 275.

Analyse this

So the votes have been tabulated and while GRS had won the most number of seats, Warisan Plus is still claiming to have won the support of Sabahans. So which is true?

 

Well, superficially, the 38 seats bagged by the PM Moo-backed coalition seem to suggest the tide of support has now turned away from Shafie’s Warisan Plus. Thing is, a closer look at the stats indicates that may not necessarily be the case.

 

In fact, Warisan Plus had ever so slightly edged past GRS in terms of S̶a̶b̶a̶h̶a̶n̶ ̶l̶o̶v̶e̶ total vote cast. Warisan Plus’ vote share of 317, 541 ballots (43.42 percent) compared to GRS’ 316, 049 (43.21 percent) shows, however, it was a really, really close contest.

So forgive us but it’s kinda tough to support the argument that the victory signals greater love for Moo and his fractious Federal government.

If anything, the distribution of votes implies that the past 28 months since GE14 have done nothing to alter what folks on the ground feel, and support is still split between those who support the fellas endorsed by Putrajaya and the parties on Warisan’s side. In case you forgot, both Shafie’s and BN’s Musa’s camp secured 29 seats each back in 2018 with frog-itis (defections la!) ultimately making Shafie the victor.

 

Even so, and despite the incumbent CM insisting it’s his party, with the single most number of seats, that holds sway, that hardly ever matters. If it did, DAP would be leading the Federal government on account of its 42 Parliamentary seats, right?

 

Interestingly, something the numbers do show quite clearly is that katak culture is alive and well, and Sabahans appear to be pretty okay with it. This, despite the murmurs of protests heard back in July when Mighty Musa attempted to take over the state government with the help of some defecting amphibians.

 

A total of 19 candidates who’d been with different parties in 2018 contested in Saturday’s polls, and of that number, 12 were voted back into office. The dirty dozen includes seven Bersatu reps originally from Umno pre-GE14, but way more interesting is the fact four of the victorious kataks – Masiung Banah, Limus Jury, Abidin Madingkir and James Ratib – were among the fellas who’d been in Musa’s camp during the July coup attempt. 

 

Speaking of frogging it, while 32 seats ain’t enough for Shafie and Warisan Plus to retake the government, hopping, skipping and jumping could still factor into the equation.

 

On Sunday, after hours upon hours of haggling, GRS put forth two names of potential CM candidates – Sabah BN chief Bung Moktar Radin and state Bersatu boss Hajiji Mohd Noor – for Sabah governor Juhar Mahiruddin to consider. However, as things stand right now, Juhar, the dude who ordered for the dissolution of the state assembly in July, has yet to make up his mind.

It’s, of course, a governor’s prerogative to take everything into account before making a call on who to appoint the chosen one. But you’ve gotta feel that with every passing hour, the chances of deals in the dark being struck, like in 2018 and 1994 and 1985/86, become more and more real.

 

Yep, PBS, which went into this polls as a GRS party and bagged seven seats, has already come out to deny they’ll be cutting any sorta deal with Shafie. But ya know, this is Sabah and already the grapevine is abuzz with noise that certain fellas contesed under GRS tickets gathered at Shafie’s house late on Sunday to sembang

 

Yes, folks, the seats and numbers may certainly tell stories, but in the Land Below the Wind, endings are notoriously hard to predict.

Quo vadis?

According to one Najib Razak, now that the polls are done, it’s time for the winners to put aside their differences and get to work to “save Sabah”. Here’s the problem though – things are nowhere near settled and as long as Governor Juhar dawdles on who to give his blessing to, the uncertainty will persist.

 

But regardless of who the governor picks and whether or not frogging rears its head again, one thing that’s certain is Shafie’s standing as a viable PM candidate for the opposition has taken a severe beating. Yes, yes, we know we said earlier that the vote share shows Warisan hasn’t exactly fallen out of favour. Even so, can a leader who’s ostensibly seen to have been beaten really be considered a potential premier?

 

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who first suggested Shafie for the big job, insisted that nothing’s changed and the Warisan man is still an option. But surely a great many things have changed since the results were announced, and one fellow who might agree with our assessment is Anwar Ibrahim.

 

The PKR bossman, as you’re sure to remember from our Thursday and Friday newsletters last week, is insisting he has the numbers to take over as PM. However, while Shafie and Warisan’s loss in Sabah might well succeed in painting Anwar in a more attractive light among certain key Opposition colleagues – we’re looking at you Lim Guan Eng – it doesn’t immediately follow that the PKR leader is on course to stake his claim to Putrajaya. And the main reason for that is Shafie’s recent loss is more likely to be seen as a win for PM Moo than a triumph for Anwar.

 

Muhyiddin was under loads of pressure last week thanks to Anwar’s claims of the current government having “collapsed”. However, certain analysts think PN’s win in Sabah might’ve not only succeeded in “pouring cold water” on Anwar’s plans of takeover, but handed control of the political game back to Muhyiddin. And that’s not just based on the GRS’ seat haul, mind you, but also the fact that Anwar’s own party, PKR, was nearly decimated in Saturday’s polls, winning only two out of the seven seats it contested.

 

And here’s the other thing: while Anwar may indeed have been telling the truth last week about having a “strong, formidable, convincing majority” of MPs in his corner, how many of those reps would now want to side with him now that PM Moo appears to have the upper hand?

 

Muhyiddin said last week that a good result in Sabah could signal an early GE on the horizon. So with GRS’ win now, you gotta feel that the premier will be planning his and Bersatu’s next moves to capitalise on this. Risking his fate on the national stage is still a big gamble, of course. But his “live” special address to the nation on RTM immediately following GRS’ win suggests that not only is Moo more confident about PN than he was days ago, he’s also certain that he can hold his own against Umno at the negotiating table. Hmmm … we guess that’s why PN refused to give in to Umno’s nominee for Sabah CM.

 

There’re interesting days ahead for sure. Unfortunately, not a whole lot is certain. But hey, that’s politics.

No end to Covid woes

By the way, while many had gone to the polls, a BN candidate tested positive for Covid-19 while several other politicians have been ordered to self-isolate due to exposure.

BN’s Pitas candidate Sufian Abd Karim – who eventually lost to indie Ruddy Awah – was the one who tested positive. As such, the likes of BN and Umno boss Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki have been ordered to self-quarantine. Zahid tested negative for Covid twice but is slated to take another test today.

Sufian is the third Umno man to be infected along the Sabah campaign trail. The other two are supreme council member Mohd Razlan Rafii and info chief Shahril Sufian.

 

If only Suf’s were the worse coronavirus-related news we got all weekend. As noted earlier, Malaysia’s coronavirus cases have not stopped rising. And with as many as 15 new infections in Selangor, Pahang, Johor, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur being traced to high-risk areas in Sabah, the Health Ministry has demanded everyone returning from the state be screened and placed under mandatory two-week home quarantine. 

 

Saturday’s daily case tally was 82, 64 of which were recorded in Sabah. Sadly, yesterday, the numbers shot up further to 150 (with 124 from Sabah), a tally that also sent our active cases to a whopping 950.

The weekend also saw three new clusters being identified – two in Sabah and one in KL. Of these, the ‘Buang Sayang’ and ‘Kg Sakong’ clusters were detected in Sipitang and Semporna in Sabah, respectively, while ‘Setapak’ cluster was detected in Setapak (duh!) in KL. However, the index case for ‘Setapak’ had travelled to Tawau and Semporna.

And in worse news, we’ve recorded yet another fatality. The death, registered in Semporna, marks our 134th in total.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose."

- Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett is President Donald Trump’s pick to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court. Barrett will still have to be confirmed by the Senate, of course. But considering that Republicans hold sway there, don’t expect too many hiccups.

    BTW, if you’re wondering just how conservative Barrett is, an early indication is that The Donald believes Roe v Wade, that landmark 1973 court decision that made abortion legal in the US, could soon be overturned.
     
  • Still on Trump l’orange, the New York Times has published the President’s tax info for personal and corporate returns going back more than 20 years. The Times says it chose to reveal the data because despite promising to do so, Trump has never made his finances public.
     
  • Clashes have broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a disputed territory situated within the latter’s borders. The two nations have been at odds over the Nagorno-Karabakh region for years and even fought a full-scale war over it in 1994.
     
  • Legendary Indian singer SP Balasubrahmanyam has passed away Friday from complications arising from Covid-19. The singer, who is in the Guinness Book for having recorded over 40,000 songs, the most by any singer in history, was 74. 
     
  • Indonesian badminton great Rudy Hartono has suffered a stroke. The 71-year-old shuttler, who won a record eight All-England singles titles and four Thomas Cups in a glittering career, was rushed to hospital on Saturday but is reportedly in stable condition now.
     
  • This is just nuts! An American who suddenly collapsed and died at a McDonald’s in 2019 was found to have been killed by the bags of black liquorice he’d consumed daily for three weeks straight. According to docs researching the case, the liquorice had resulted in a drop in the man’s potassium levels and led to him suffering a cardiac arrest.

*The QOTD can be translated to: The more things change, the more they stay the same

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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