KOTA KINABALU (CNA) – Malaysia’s major political parties headed eastward in the first weekend after the announcement of the date for the country’s next general election, as they vied for the support of traditional kingmaker state Sabah.
Among the promises doled out so far is the offer of a deputy prime minister position, with two competing coalitions raising it to rally support. The role has typically only gone to someone from Peninsular Malaysia.
The pace of the parties’ outreach in Sabah even before the official campaigning period has surprised observers, as political leaders attempt to secure what could make or break a coalition’s fate at the 15th General Election (GE15) on November 19.
With 25 parliamentary seats at stake, a win in Sabah is seen as crucial for any coalition looking to form the country’s next government.
The eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak together hold a quarter of Malaysia’s total parliamentary seats. They have long been branded kingmakers, as any coalition they choose to back would likely form the government.
Over the long weekend, political leaders were busy lending star power to their parties’ campaigns there.
The ruling coalition’s big wigs, Barisan Nasional (BN) Chairman Zahid Hamidi and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, were all on the ground, along with leader of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, Anwar Ibrahim.
Local parties also took the opportunity to drum up support, including Sabah’s main opposition leader Shafie Apdal of Warisan and the state’s Chief Minister Hajiji Noor, who leads the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah.
The flurry of activity to woo voters in the Borneo state comes as no surprise, said an Asian Studies expert from the University of Tasmania, Professor James Chin, thought it is unusual for the parties are reaching out so early in the campaign.
“What I’m surprised about is that they are all coming this particular weekend at the same time. Normally they will spread their visits because they do not want everyone to rush to just a single event and ignore other events,” he noted.
Over the weekend, party leaders took the opportunity to share their visions for Malaysia and Sabah.