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PBS and Star marriage of convenience – Too early to celebrate

KOTA KINABALU: The popular saying ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’ holds true when it comes to the intricate details of Sabah politics.

The excitement surrounding the signing of the PBS-STAR Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on April 18 (Thursday) may not necessarily guarantee votes in the upcoming state election (PRN).

While many political analysts believe that the timely MoU between PBS and Star should receive support from the people, it is premature to celebrate its success considering the ever-changing political landscape in Sabah.

Taking into account the outcomes of the 15th general elections, such as the surprising victory of the KDM party led by Datuk Peter Anthony in the Kota Marudu parliamentary constituency and the success of PH in Tuaran, it is evident that both PBS and Star of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) still have to compete against UPKO, KDM, or even BN for the support of the people, especially the Kadazandusun Murut votes.

“This is the beauty of Sabah politics. Even if you wear clothes of different colours in the field of politics, the people still recognise you and your KPI.

“The people will not give you extra marks even if you wear a patterned jersey; if you fail to deliver, they wil still vote you out,” said political analyst Lesaya Lopog

According to him, what holds significance for elected representatives (wakil rakyat) is your Key Performance Indicator (KPI).

“It is crucial to showcase your efforts towards improving the lives of the people, particularly in fulfilling their basic needs, such as electricity and water supply as well as roads,” he told Jesselton Times.

On the proposed merger between Solidarity Tanah Airku (STAR) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) in Sabah, Lesaya is of the opinion that the merger can have both advantages and disadvantages.

He said among the advantages would be that the merger could result in a stronger political force in Sabah.

“At least for the ruling GRS. By combining their resources, members, and support base, the merged party can have a greater influence and impact on the political landscape of the state.

“The merger can also improve the electoral prospects of the parties involved. It can lead to a more unified and cohesive campaign strategy, pooling their strengths and increasing their chances of success in elections,” he said.

On a broader scale, Lesaya said the merger can bring together supporters from both parties, resulting in a broader representation of different interests and perspectives.

“This can help in addressing a wider range of issues and concerns that are important to the people of Sabah.

“At the same time, it may prevent vote splitting between the two parties. Instead of competing against each other, they can consolidate their support base and present a united front, reducing the chances of diluting their votes in elections,” he added.

However, Lesaya said there are serious disadvantages, as well as that the merger will open up incidents of internal conflicts and power struggles.

“Merging two parties can lead to internal conflicts and power struggles.

“Members from both parties may have different ideologies, priorities, and leadership styles, which can create tensions and divisions within the merged party.

“The merger may result in the loss of the unique identity and brand of each party. Some loyal supporters may feel alienated or disenchanted by the merger, leading to a decline in membership and voter support,” he said.

Lesaya said there will be challenges in the integration process.

“Merging parties requires integrating their organisational structures, systems, and processes.

“This can be complex and time-consuming, as it involves harmonising membership databases, financial systems, party rules, and procedures.

“Failure to effectively integrate these aspects can result in operational inefficiencies and internal conflicts, said Lesaya.

He said the merged party may face scepticism and scrutiny from the public, media, and other political actors.

Other political parties may view the merger as a threat and increase their competition, making it more challenging to gain electoral success, he said.

Ultimately, he said the success of the merger between STAR and PBS will depend on various factors, including the sincerity of the parties involved, the ability to address internal conflicts, and the effectiveness of their communication and campaign strategies.

“Another political factor to consider is the fact that Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) is losing its relevance, which can be seen in the result of the previous general election, where PBS lost in constituencies it has considered its bastion and stronghold in the past, particularly Marudu, Keningau, Tenom, and Tambunan.

“Some of the reason for this is perhaps its failure to adapt to the changing political landscape.

“Over time, the political landscape in Sabah may have evolved, with new issues, concerns, and priorities emerging. PBS’ failure to adapt and address these changing dynamics could have resulted in a loss of relevance among voters.

“Internal divisions within the party, such as factionalism or leadership disputes, may have also weakened the party’s unity and effectiveness.

“Infighting and instability can erode public trust and support, leading to a decline in relevance,” he said.

“Political parties need to effectively communicate their message and engage with the public to stay relevant.

“PBS may have failed to engage with the electorate, connect with voters, and effectively communicate its policies and positions, which have contributed to a loss of relevance in voter-based.

“If PBS was unable to effectively address the key issues and concerns of the people of Sabah, which have caused it to lose electoral votes, then chances are the merged entity between STAR and PBS may also lose its relevance in the eyes of the voters and render the whole exercise futile,” he said.

Lesaya said the presence of other political parties, both local and national, can create intense competition for support and votes.

“If PBS faced strong competition from other parties that were able to better resonate with the electorate, it would further result in a loss of relevance and a loss of voter support base.

“Over time, voter preferences can change, influenced by various factors such as socioeconomic conditions, demographic shifts, or political events.

“If PBS and the merged entity fail to align with these changing voter preferences or fail to offer a compelling alternative, it will further lose its relevance among the electorate,” he added.

Lesaya said parties need strong leadership and a clear vision to inspire and mobilise their supporters.

“Currently, PBS lacks a strong leadership line-up and a compelling vision for the future.

“This may have prompted the decision to merge with STAR, which is in a better position in terms of leadership line-up and quality to maintain relevance and attract new supporters,” said Lesaya.

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