As other CM candidates roam battlefield, Hajiji fortifies the fort

Geraldine Tong

Modified 24 Sep 2020, 12:58 am

SABAH POLLS | The question of who will be the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) chief ministerial candidate remains up in the air even as the Sabah election campaign is coming to a close.

One touted chief minister candidate is Sabah Bersatu chief Hajiji Noor, 65, who is seeking an eighth term as the Sulaman legislative assemblyperson.

The other two candidates are Warisan president Shafie Apdal and Sabah BN chief Bung Moktar Radin.

While Shafie and Bung wield considerable influence in their respective strongholds of Semporna and Kinabatangan respectively, both have spent most of their time crisscrossing the state to stump for their allies.

However, Hajiji's campaign, based on the invitations sent out to the media, appears to be limited to the Tuaran area.

Tuaran is a town about an hour's drive north of Kota Kinabalu. The Tuaran parliamentary constituency is where Sulaman is located.

Hajiji ventured to campaign outside of Tuaran, for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, with several stops in Papar. By night, he was back in Tuaran for a ceramah.

Read more: Sabah Decides 2020: Making sense of the players, parties and battles

In Tuaran, Hajiji has recruited several big names for his campaign, including Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, International Trade and Industries Minister Azmin Ali, Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu and former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman.

Different flag

Hajiji's decision to fortify his position has left some political observers wondering if he was insecure about retaining the Sulaman seat.

For this election, Hajiji will not be using the BN logo, for the first time in his career for the Sulaman ballot slip. Prior to defecting to Muhyiddin's Bersatu in 2019, Hajiji was the Sabah BN and Umno head.

During the past elections, Hajiji had always scored thumping victories in Sulaman. During the 2018 general election, Hajiji polled 69 percent of the votes cast - the best performing BN candidate in the state.

Although five voting districts from Sulaman were carved out to form the new Pantai Dalit constituency, six out of the remaining seven voting districts in Sulaman voted in favour of Hajiji in the last election.

When making his rounds, Hajiji appeared to be a well-recognised figure in Tuaran and capable of drawing crowds when he speaks.

His central message was similar to Muhyiddin's - that the Sabah people will only benefit if the state government was aligned with the federal government.

Muhyiddin's image as a leader navigating Malaysia through the Covid-19 pandemic has been the face of PN-Bersatu's campaign in Sabah.

Hajiji himself is rarely seen on PN posters, aside from those within Sulaman.

While Hajiji becoming the GRS' chief ministerial candidate would likely rely on how many seats PN wins in the election, his current campaign does not appear to have the bearing of a chief minister-to-be.

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