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Will ‘kingmaker’ GPS decide to gobble up the seats it lost to ex-PKR MPs?

How the elections are fought by GPS and PN in Sarawak will be crucial in determining their future ties.

Nur Shazreena Ali
3 minute read

The likelihood of former PKR MPs in Sarawak clashing with candidates from the ruling GPS in the upcoming polls could affect GPS’ ties with the Perikatan Nasional (PN) federal government helmed by Bersatu, analysts say.

They also see little likelihood of GPS, the coalition formed after the 2018 election by Sarawak parties which left the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, giving way to other parties even if they are in the same camp at the federal level.

Four of the five PKR MPs in Sarawak who quit their party have either joined Bersatu or GPS, or remain as independents friendly to the PN government.

They include Saratok MP Ali Biju and Puncak Borneo MP Willie Mongin who crossed over to Bersatu together with several senior PKR leaders last year.

Meanwhile, Lubok Antu MP Jugah Muyang and Julau MP Larry Sng have both declared themselves as independents friendly to PN.

They provide a further boost for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who came to power in 2020 with critical support from GPS’ 18 MPs.

But with GPS seen as being on strong footing amid a series of benefits reaped from its cooperation with Muhyiddin, including the procurement of billions of dollars in oil money denied to it under the previous government, analysts say the state coalition would be unperturbed about facing the ex-PKR incumbents should they stand again to defend their seats.

GPS – comprising Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) – is widely seen as a kingmaker in federal politics.

Its support, along with that of PAS, was also seen as crucial to the success of the so-called Sheraton Move which saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in February 2020.

GPS candidates, who contested under the BN banner in the last election, were spared the political tsunami of 2018 which saw most states swept away by PH and those aligned with it, as was the case in neighbouring Sabah.

Jayum Jawan of Universiti Putra Malaysia said GPS’ kingmaker status would allow it to contest the next general election from a position of national strength.

“Like it or not, GPS is going to be the kingmaker in the formation of another new government after GE15,” Jayum told MalaysiaNow.

For now, though, a clash appears unlikely if recent remarks by GPS’ Fadillah Yusof are anything to go by.

Fadillah, GPS’ whip in Parliament and a federal senior minister, said the coalition would contest all 82 state seats and 31 federal seats in the next polls.

But he hinted that GPS would avoid any face-off with Bersatu, its partner in Putrajaya.

“There will be some understanding with those MPs currently with Bersatu. We will look into how we can accommodate them.

“It is not for me (to decide), but the final stand will be announced by the chief minister,” he told reporters in Kuching on Friday.

Seasoned Sarawak politics observer Jeniri Amir warned that any clash between GPS and Bersatu in the coming polls could affect the future of PN.

He said MPs such as Willie and Ali should be planning their next move, and gave several scenarios that could play out, judging from past instances where former elected representatives clashed with their own parties.

“Are they willing to come to some kind of compromise? Will they join PSB again? Or will they stand as independent candidates?

“The kingmaker will have a very high value because whoever wants to form a government, they need the support of numbers,” he said.

He said the ex-PKR MPs would need to be very influential on the ground in order to re-contest their seats, adding that Ali has more of an advantage in this than Willie.

Jayum meanwhile said it would not be necessary for the incumbents to be allowed to contest only their current seats.

He said this would encourage politicians to quit their parties and turn independent in the hopes of joining later on.

Meanwhile, ties between Bersatu and GPS could swing either way, something being keenly observed by opposition parties.

And how the two fight in the general election will be as important as the results.