The silent animosity between Anwar Ibrahim and Shafie Apdal, whose parties went to the Sabah election as allies, now threatens to become an all-out war following tonight’s results which saw the victory of Perikatan Nasional (PN)-backed Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS).
This likelihood will not only allow more cracks in Pakatan Harapan (PH), but also push it further away from Putrajaya despite Anwar announcing just this week that the coalition was on the threshold of returning to federal power under his leadership.
PH was the main platform under which PKR and Warisan worked together in the last general election, despite the differences between their leaders.
Insiders close to Shafie, who called for the state election to thwart a possible coup from Sabah Umno, however said the former chief minister would now have no qualms about blaming Anwar for his fall from power, a little over two years after Warisan swept to power in the 2018 polls.
Chief among the complaints is linked to Anwar’s press conference in Kuala Lumpur this week, where the PKR president declared he had secured a “formidable majority” to form the federal government.
“That announcement took the thunder away from the Sabah campaign, with key PKR leaders who were campaigning in Sabah returning in droves to Kuala Lumpur in anticipation of forming the government,” a senior PKR leader told MalaysiaNow.
On Wednesday, Anwar, accompanied by his wife and PKR leaders, convened a press conference at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, declaring that Muhyiddin’s government had “collapsed” after claiming to have secured the loyalty of MPs including from Umno.
MalaysiaNow can now confirm that following the announcement, several top PH leaders including from DAP who were campaigning in Sabah were asked to return to Kuala Lumpur to help form the government under Anwar.
“But among those who decided to stay back in Sabah was Lim Guan Eng, although many others returned,” the same PKR source said.
The absence of these leaders from the Sabah campaign affected Warisan Plus, the alliance which brings together Warisan, PKR, DAP, Amanah and the United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko).
Rift between ‘future PMs’
The rivalry between Anwar and Shafie is well-known in political circles.
Shafie, a seasoned Sabah leader whose Cabinet positions during Najib Razak’s time gained him a foothold in federal politics, was Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s choice of prime ministerial candidate when it was assumed that PH had the numbers to return to power.
“So what we are seeing now is two persons, both thought to be the future ninth prime minister of Malaysia, in an open war,” quipped an Umno leader in Kuala Lumpur when contacted by MalaysiaNow.
Senior politicians close to leaders in Umno and PKR described to MalaysiaNow the animosity between Shafie and Anwar as “irreconcilable”.
“In many private conversations, Shafie would make it clear that Anwar is not qualified to become the prime minister and that he would not allow it to happen,” said one former prominent PKR member.
“And with this election result effectively taking away Shafie’s hard-fought prize which he won in 2018, he will now find it useless to keep secret his dislike for the PKR leader.”
But the bad blood between them is already an open secret, and was manifested again when Anwar himself travelled to Sabah to get Shafie to agree to PKR contesting 14 seats. Shafie flatly rejected the request, and PKR was only allowed to contest seven seats as part of Warisan Plus.
For now, the Sabah election has further strengthened Muhyiddin’s position, even going by Lim Kit Siang’s argument.
The DAP strongman earlier said the Sabah polls were to decide not only the state’s next chief minister, but also the future prime minister.
Kit Siang said Muhyiddin had been shaken by Anwar’s press conference claiming the PN government’s impending fall.
“Muhyiddin has turned the Sabah state general election into a national one, especially after Anwar Ibrahim’s media conference that the illegitimate Muhyiddin government has fallen as he (Anwar) had the numbers to become prime minister,” Kit Siang said this morning.
For now, Anwar’s announcement that he has enough Dewan Rakyat seats to capture power will have to take a back seat.