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Just one move left for duo who tried to trigger change of Sabah govt, says analyst

Ahmad Zaharuddin Sani Sabri says that Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin and Warisan president Shafie Apdal may otherwise be staring at the end of their political careers.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin and Warisan president Shafie Apdal
Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin and Warisan president Shafie Apdal

The duo seen as behind a failed plan to force a change of government in Sabah may have only one move left to make, an analyst says as the dust begins to settle on the political crisis in the state. 

Ahmad Zaharuddin Sani Sabri also said that the situation showed the inability of Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin and Warisan president Shafie Apdal to read political manoeuvres. 

"They made a wrong move," Zaharuddin added. 

"The only thing they can do now is to trigger a state election. Otherwise, they are finished." 

The last election in Sabah was held in 2020, following a bout of political instability at the federal level. Shafie, who was chief minister at the time, dissolved the state assembly, paving the way for polls which his Warisan-led pact ultimately lost.

The latest crisis began after Bung Moktar announced on Jan 7 that Sabah Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) were withdrawing their support for Hajiji Noor as chief minister. 

He cited a loss of confidence in Hajiji's leadership as well as a breach in agreement between BN and Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Bung Moktar previously said that Hajiji had become "partyless" after leaving Bersatu and PN. 

According to the Sabah constitution, the chief minister must be an assemblyman from a political party which holds the majority of seats in the legislative assembly. 

Hajiji himself claimed on Jan 9 to have the support of 44 assemblymen, including five from BN – enough to remain as chief minister with his government still intact. 

He also said that he was a direct member of his Gabungan Rakyat Sabah pact.

Bung Moktar, who was removed from his position of deputy chief minister in a state Cabinet reshuffle on Jan 11, is now placed at the opposition side of the assembly. 

He and Shafie have said that they support a motion by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for the establishment of a unity government in the state. 

Zaharuddin said Bung Moktar should sack the five assemblymen from Umno who gave their support to Hajiji. 

But as the anti-party hopping law has yet to be gazetted in Sabah, he said, it would be up to them whether to join other parties or to remain as independents. 

"They are playing a chess game in Sabah," he said. "Umno and BN will be trapped in this situation, as well as Warisan.

"It is a disadvantage for Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's presidency and a clear signal that he cannot control Umno and BN." 

He also warned of a spillover effect from Anwar's response at the six state elections to come. 

"Pakatan Harapan will probably stand alone," he said.

Meanwhile, former Penang BN executive secretary Azizi Safar said Bung had humiliated his comrades as well as Umno, which was now seen as going back on its word in promising stability to the people.

"The move to bring down Hajiji was made by Umno following the sacking of Salleh Said Keruak from the chairmanship of a state-linked company.

"It was not because of issues relating to the prosperity of the people," he said.