Malaysia: Shafie might be key to breaking UMNO’s stranglehold on Sabah – 2 Aug 2017

  • If anyone can break Prime Minister Najib Razak’s stranglehold on Sabah, the Borneo state that holds the key to power in Malaysia, it would be Shafie Apdal.
  • Shafie’s roots in Sabah run deep. He is the nephew of a former chief minister, and rose from the local division of Umno to become the first national vice-president from the state. When Najib dumped him from the cabinet in 2015 amid a dispute over a troubled state fund 1MDB, Shafie, 59, set up his own party based in Sabah.
  • Yet to help the opposition wrest control of Malaysia from Umno after six decades of rule, Shafie needs to avoid the problems that have dogged the grouping for decades: public bickering and a tendency to compete against each other. If Sabah’s opposition blocs and parties fail to agree which seats each will contest, Najib’s coalition is all but assured of victory in an election that could come in 2017.
  • Speaking by phone, Shafie said his party is “looking into” cooperating with Pakatan Harapan, the main national opposition alliance. Warisan now has two members of parliament. It’s not decided how many seats it would contest, and the party does not disclose the size of its membership.
  • Surveys suggest the state’s 3.8 million people aren’t all that happy with Umno. A Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research poll of 905 registered Sabah voters published in May 17 found just over half were dissatisfied with the state government. But the Merdeka Centre added it would be hard for opposition parties to win the state – it turns out voters are also unimpressed ‎with their performance.
  • Grievances in Sabah include illegal immigration, concerns about autonomy and resentment over a 6% goods-and-services tax that has boosted prices. Inflation nationwide is set to quicken to as much as 4% in 2017, from 2.1% in 2016.

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