Special Report

Can Warisan wrest Sabah from BN?

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SPECIAL REPORT | Parti Warisan Sabah may only be a year old, but some are of the opinion that the party has the potential to cause an upset to Barisan Nasional in the forthcoming general election.

The arrests of Warisan leaders, including that of party president Mohd Shafie Apdal, have only served to strengthen this thinking.

Warisan vice-president Junz Wong sees the crackdown as proof that the fledgling party is seen as a threat to BN.

While some fear that the spate of arrests will cripple Warisan, its supporters believe that the party is stronger as a result, while others say the "injustice" will lead to more sympathy for the party.

Met in Kota Kinabalu, Kinabatangan native and Umno member Awang Asgali said even he could not help but admit that Warisan is currently the "strongest" opposition party in the state.

"Just look at the crowd during the remand hearings, it's not even voting time. I think Warisan is indeed strong," Awang said in reference to the hundreds of supporters who turned up to court in support of the detained Warisan leaders.

During Shafie's first remand hearing last week, reports said up to 500 supporters had gathered in a show of solidarity with the Warisan president.

While awed by the support for Warisan, Awang (photo) still expressed scepticism over the party's chances in the coming election.

"We cannot know for sure because people change. Five years ago, when the opposition came, everyone joined them, but when the time came to vote, they chose Barisan (Nasional)."

But Warisan, said the 45-year-old, has the "Shafie factor", which sets it apart from other opposition parties in the state.

"When Shafie left Umno, all his supporters followed, and these people went to villages stating that they want Sabah to develop further.

"Shafie always went to the ground during his time in Umno and contributed a lot. This is why the rakyat love him, not because of his party membership but because of his contributions," Awang claimed.

Local voter Aman Mohd Zain (photo) believes that Warisan has solid prospects under Shafie's leadership.

"Their supporters are really strong. The rakyat have sort of given them a good mandate. I don't think the other parties have such a bright chance like them.

"For Warisan, it's all about tackling the rakyat's woes, unlike other parties that have other issues to fight for, like secession."

Rising through the ranks in Umno as a youth leader in the early 1990s, Shafie became the first Sabahan to become vice-president of the party in the 2013 Umno election.

However, he was removed in a cabinet reshuffle two years later, and had his membership in Umno suspended after becoming increasingly critical of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's leadership...