KOTA KINABALU: After seven days of campaigning in the 13th general election, polling for which is on May 5, the Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman is now in the driving seat for the political battle in the State.
The Sabah BN, which is facing a seemingly disunited Opposition, looks set to retain power in the state, thus enabling it to live up to the tag of being "the fixed deposit" of the BN.
Despite the opposition pact's onslaught for the parliamentary battle, Sabah BN is likely to win most of the seats won in the 2008 general election. However, the BN expects tough fights for the Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, Beaufort, Tuaran, Penampang, Sepanggar, Pensiangan, Kota Belud and Kota Marudu parliamentary seats.
This is the analysis of some political observers in Sabah, based on the local political scenario, whereby it is probably the most crowded in the State's electoral history.
In the 2008 general election, Sabah BN won 59 of the 60 state seats and 24 of the 25 parliamentary seats, losing the Sri Tanjung state seat and the Kota Kinabalu parliamentary seat to the Opposition.
In what is seen as a morale booster for the Sabah BN, with seven more days to polling, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak praised the "leadership of Musa" on his recent visit to Sabah.
"I am impressed by his report card. The people of Sabah should read it because it is a success for the State government and we support it fully," Najib was quoted as saying.
Political observers believe that once the dust settles after the 13th general election, voters in Sabah will wake up to herald a continuous chapter in the BN's leadership supremacy.
They say the determining factor for BN's ability to continue ruling the state lies in the fact that the coalition is more united in facing the election, while the opposition is pitted not just against the BN but also against one another.
Despite pre-election calls for the opposition parties to reach an understanding so as to ensure straight fights with the BN, only the Tanjung Batu State seat and the Sandakan parliamentary seat are seeing one-to-one contests.
"The decision by Star (State Reform Party), SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party) and PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) to field almost equal number of candidates for the state seats is a clear example of serious friction among them.
"Given the bickering among them, it is hard to imagine any one of them winning enough seats to become the leader of the pack," said an independent media practitioner.
He said internal squabbles among the opposition parties, especially in Sabah, has put a dent in their plan to find an amicable solution to seat allocation.
On top of that, PKR's 'insincere' gesture of offering SAPP a limited number of state seats has resulted in the latter completely abandoning the hope of wanting to work with the peninsula-based party.
"It was actually an excuse by PKR over its preference for PPPS (Pertubuhan Pakatan Perubahan Sabah) led by Datuk Lajim Ukin and Datuk Wilfred Bumburing's APS (Angkatan Perubahan Sabah), which are only non-governmental organisations," he said.
The BN has fielded candidates in all the parliamentary seats, and its opponents are from the STAR (in 21 seats), PKR (19), Independents (15), SAPP (8), DAP (four) PAS (two) and Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (Kita) (1).
As for the state seats, STAR and its ally independents have 49 candidates, PKR 43, SAPP 41, PAS nine, DAP seven, Malaysia United People's Party (MUPP) three and Kita one.
The Sabah BN manifesto, unveiled by Musa last Saturday, has boosted the people's confidence in the state and federal BN leadership.
The manifesto, which complements the federal BN's 'Promise of Hope', spells out 16 commitments aimed at spurring the socio-economic development in the state, including uplifting the living standards of local communities as well as bridging the gap between urban and rural development.
"Sabahans are especially excited by the federal government's plan to build a 2,300km Pan Borneo Highway stretching from Sematan, Sarawak, to Serudung, Sabah.
"This alone will open up a large tract of land for commercial development while, at the same time, close the gap between the urban and rural population," said Azman Ruslan, a lawyer. (DE)