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Discord spells disaster for Sabah PKR, say analysts
Published on: Saturday, April 20, 2024
By: FMT, Shahrul Shahabudin
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Discord spells disaster for Sabah PKR, say analysts
PKR leaders including party president Anwar Ibrahim (bottom, right) are expected to meet Sabah leaders in an attempt to resolve the ongoing crisis in the state chapter this weekend.
PETALING JAYA: Political analysts have warned that the ongoing leadership crisis in Sabah PKR will tarnish its image and may drive away its supporters ahead of the next state election.

Bilcher Bala of Universiti Malaysia Sabah said disillusioned members of the party at the grassroots level might also defect to Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Gagasan Rakyat) led by chief minister Hajiji Noor.

“Given that local (Sabah) political issues will be more prominent in the next state election, these grassroots members will be attracted by Gagasan Rakyat’s promise of a rejuvenation of local politics,” Bilcher told FMT.

He said if the PKR crisis was not quickly resolved, the party would lose the support of its own grassroots to Gagasan Rakyat, a party they see as closer to their heart.

Bilcher said this also applied to other parties based in the peninsula with branches in Sabah, adding that there had already been a precedent.

For instance, he said, an internal crisis in Sabah Bersatu drove the party’s top state leaders, including Hajiji himself, to Gagasan Rakyat in December 2022.

“PKR may undergo a similar splintering,” he added.

Kota Marudu PKR chief Sazalye Donol announced on March 17 that the heads of 15 of the party’s 26 divisions in Sabah wanted Sangkar Rasam to resign as the state party leader.

However, Sabah Pakatan Harapan (PH) chief Christina Liew played down the crisis by asserting that the party would not “break” given that it had faced similar challenges before.

In December 2021, the heads of 17 divisions called for Liew’s removal as Sabah PKR chief, citing the party’s declining influence as the main opposition party in the state.

At the time, the Tawau division Youth chief Tommy Thomas claimed that the leaders of these divisions had signed statutory declarations rejecting Liew’s leadership.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim is expected to meet local leaders in an attempt to resolve the crisis when he visits Sabah today to attend the national-level Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house.

Political analyst James Chin of University of Tasmania said the crisis would not only damage PKR’s standing in Sabah but also tarnish its reputation at the national level.

“People will be asking how come Anwar can’t manage (the crisis) since he is (also) the prime minister,” he told FMT.

However, Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs offered a contrarian view, saying it would not have a significant impact on PKR’s prospects in the Sabah polls.

“PKR’s past electoral success had more to do with PH’s influence than the party’s own standing,” he told FMT.

“Even at the federal level, (things are) similarly messy (for PKR), especially during the party elections season.

“The party is a salad bowl of many different factions with various agendas and very vocal leaders. So it should not surprise anyone if a crisis as such recurs yet again.”

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