The Sabah state election campaign kicked off with a total of 73 seats receiving nominations from 447 candidates on Saturday, 12 September
The Election Commission (EC) has fixed 26 September for polling day and 22 September for early voting in the state, where a total of 1.12 million voters are eligible to vote in the snap election.
The state election is happening after a coup attempt by former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman, who claimed he had majority support to take over the state government, failed and Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal announced the dissolution of the state Legislative Assembly on 30 July.
However, Musa, the man who triggered the snap election, will now be sitting out of the electoral contest as he did not turn up at the Dewan Serbaguna Libaran where the nomination process was held.
For the record, Sabah originally had 60 seats. However, redelineation of electoral boundaries has added 13 new seats in the state, making the count to 73 seats that are now up for grabs in the election.
Meanwhile, the EC announced that media outlets other than RTM, Bernama, the Information Department, and FINAS will not be allowed to enter the nomination centres in all 73 constituencies.
In a brief statement, the EC thanked the media for their cooperation and said this is in line with the implementation of the special standard operating procedure (SOP) to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.
To mark the first day of the 14 day campaigning period, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who was in Tuaran today to support Bersatu Sabah chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, announced the formation of a grand opposition coalition called Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS)
According to PM Muhyiddin, GRS is the name that will be used from 26 September onwards should the parties in the grand coalition succeed in forming the state government in Sabah.
During his speech at the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) headquarters in Sulaman, Tuaran, the Prime Minister elaborated to say that the new coalition will work as a team in developing the state.
"We sat with the parties that have agreed to fight for the people of Sabah. I would like to announce that we have decided to call the coalition that will work together with the federal as Gabungan Rakyat Sabah," he said, adding that the opposition parties are "one in working together to form a state government".
PM Muhyiddin said it was agreed upon by the parties on Friday, 11 September, that only by forming a grand alliance will they be strong enough to take on Shafie Apdal's WARISAN Plus coalition government.
WARISAN Plus consists of Parti Warisan Sabah (WARISAN), People's Justice Party (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), and United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO).
"We can't form a government if only Perikatan Nasional (PN) wins. No one party can do this on its own and win. Only the cooperation between all the parties in Gabungan Rakyat Sabah can form a strong state government in Sabah," he said, adding that the purpose of this new coalition is to "further develop Sabah".
"If Sabah is being led by this coalition, surely it will be greater compared to WARISAN."
So who's who in this new opposition coalition?
"For starters, those in this coalition will be PN, BN, and PBS," Muhyiddin said.
For the record, PN stands for Perikatan Nasional, the ruling unofficial coalition in the Federal Government that is led by Bersatu and is supported by Barisan Nasional (BN), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), and Gabungan Bersatu Sabah (GBS) since March 2020.
BN is Barisan Nasional that consists of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS).
PBS stands for Parti Bersatu Sabah, which is a member party of GBS together with Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), PBRS, and allied member Parti Progresif Sabah (SAPP).
The coalition makes a practical sense for the Sabah opposition parties
While PN in Sabah includes Bersatu, PAS, STAR, and SAPP, BN in the state includes UMNO, MCA, MIC, and PBRS. Given that all these opposition parties in Sabah will be clashing in a number of constituencies, the formation of a new grand coalition to accommodate all of them makes a practical sense.
"At every level of the parties, we need to put aside any differences and build each other up. That is the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah spirit," the Prime Minister said as he urged the members of his party, Bersatu, to work with their component party members and allies from UMNO, PBS, SAPP, STAR, PBRS, and MCA.
According to Muhyiddin, all these opposition parties "have to help each other out" and work together in this coalition. If not, he cautioned, the opposition parties in Sabah will not be able to form a government.
He remarked that no other coalition can challenge GRS as long as PN was in power in Putrajaya and that it makes more sense if Sabah will be led by the same government.
"This is because we still have more to do. Yes, there has been development but it is not enough and we need to make it better," Muhyiddin said, to applause from about 100 supporters in Tuaran.
Meanwhile, PM Muhyiddin also hinted that if Gabungan Rakyat forms the government in Sabah, Bersatu's Hajiji is a potential chief minister
"Who knows, if our partners in PN and also BN agree, the best we can offer as the candidate to helm the state is none other than Hajiji," he was reported as saying by Malaysiakini earlier today, 12 September.
However, following the proposal by Muhyiddin, UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi took to his Twitter handle to say that any chief minister candidate will be determined after the election is over.
"BN has decided that the Sabah chief minister will be chosen by BN assemblypersons and its political allies when we have enough seats to form the new state government," read his tweet.
Speaking of which, a total of 4.2 million people in the country aged 21 and above who are eligible to vote have yet to register as voters: