Sabah governor asked to decide on chief minister

Impasse comes as Muhyiddin's pact fails to agree on candidate

Left: Sabah Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chief Hajiji Noor (third from left) with PN secretary-general and Malaysia's Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin (second from left) after their victory in the Sabah polls on Saturday. Also pictured is Bersatu vice
Sabah Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chief Hajiji Noor (third from left) with PN secretary-general and Malaysia's Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin (second from left) after their victory in the Sabah polls on Saturday. Also pictured is Bersatu vice-president Ronald Kiandee (fourth from left).PHOTO: BERNAMA
Umno’s Sabah chief Bung Moktar Radin (in white shirt) flanked by Umno’s top leadership – former prime minister Najib Razak and party vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob (right).
Umno’s Sabah chief Bung Moktar Radin (in white shirt) flanked by Umno’s top leadership – former prime minister Najib Razak and party vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob (right).PHOTO: BERNAMA

A victorious Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his allies in the Sabah state election has failed to decide on a candidate for chief minister and asked Sabah governor Juhar Mahiruddin to make a decision in the coming days.

GRS had initially aimed to get a new chief minister sworn in by 11am yesterday but missed the deadline as meetings involving its component parties continued into the morning.

Unable to resolve the impasse, GRS' main leaders, including the two chief minister candidates, Umno's Sabah chief Bung Moktar Radin and Sabah Perikatan Nasional (PN) chief Hajiji Noor, met Tan Sri Juhar.

The governor, said Datuk Seri Bung, had asked for time to make a decision, meaning a swearing-in ceremony could not take place yesterday. Chief ministers are typically sworn in the day after the election. The parties met until the early hours yesterday but were unable to announce a candidate at the time.

Friction between GRS allies had been evident throughout the campaign. GRS parties contested against one another in 17 state seats, while both PN, which is led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin, and Barisan Nasional (BN), the biggest component of his federal government, proposed different candidates.

Mr Muhyiddin has proposed that Sabah PN chief Hajiji Noor be made the chief minister, while BN chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi insisted early yesterday that the candidate has to come from BN component Umno, as Umno was the single party with the most seats among GRS allies. PN won 17 seats and BN 14, but all BN's seats were won by Umno.

In contrast, Mr Muhyiddin's own party Bersatu, which Datuk Seri Hajiji belongs to, won 11 seats. The other six PN seats were won by its ally Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku Rakyat Sabah (Star).

The friction between GRS allies was apparent after Saturday's win. Both PN and BN celebrated at different command centres, and made separate victory announcements.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty over GRS' negotiations seems to have given some glimmer of hope to incumbent and caretaker Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, who did not concede defeat right away after the official results on Saturday night.

Datuk Seri Shafie pointed out instead that his party Parti Warisan Sabah had won 23 state seats and remained the single party with the most seats among all parties that contested the polls. His electoral allies won another nine seats, for a total of 32.

Technically, if any of the major GRS components chose to work with Warisan and its allies, Mr Shafie's party could still form the state government.

GRS ally Parti Bersatu Sabah yesterday issued a statement denying it was in talks with Warisan to form a state government.

Sabah has been in political turmoil since late June, after Warisan's state government collapsed following mass defections of 13 assemblymen to PN, which was then led by former chief minister Musa Aman.

But governor Juhar consented to Mr Shafie's proposal to dissolve the assembly and hold fresh elections, instead of allowing Tan Sri Musa to return to power via defections.

Sabah underwent days of political turmoil after the 2018 elections, which saw Mr Shafie's Warisan and BN led by Mr Musa secure 29 seats each, leading to a hung assembly.

Mr Musa struck a deal with Star, which had two seats, and managed to form the state government.

But two days later, United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation, then a BN ally, opted to join Warisan instead, and Mr Shafie was in turn sworn in as the new chief minister.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2020, with the headline 'Sabah governor asked to decide on chief minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe