Sabah no longer BN fixed deposit, says survey

Barisan Nasional remains strong in Borneo but there are signs that the next elections will be a tough one in Sabah. – EPA pic, May 18, 2017. | 18-May-2017 – A KEY assumption that has underpinned Barisan Nasional’s (BN) GE14 plans is dangerously faulty, with a recent survey showing that voters in the “fixed deposit” state of Sabah are a restless and unhappy lot.

If elections were held today, there is a good chance that BN candidates will not be able to replicate the success they achieved at the state and parliamentary levels in 2013.

But the survey also shows that it will be a tall order for the opposition to take control of the state in the 14th general election, with a majority of voters being unimpressed ‎with their performance to date.

The survey commissioned by The Malaysian Insight and  carried out this month by Merdeka Center involved 905 voters, covering all age groups and demographics.

These are among the key findings:

  •  some 52% of the respondents were dissatisfied with the state government;
  • some 49% of the respondents believed that Malaysia was headed in the wrong direction, with their primary concern being the cost of living and lingering unhappiness over the goods and services tax (GST);
  • some 66% of respondents were unhappy with the economic situation in Sabah;
  • some 56% of those surveyed said they were feeling the economic crunch;
  • nearly 70% of respondents also wanted greater autonomy for Sabah to run its finances and administration. They didn’t want separation from the federation, just more independence from Putrajaya;
  • Sabah voters continue to have grave concerns about illegal immigrants and want this issue debated fully in the run-up to the polls.

These findings provide a picture of a population with festering grievances and far away from the ideal of the fixed deposit vote bank painted by ruling coalition politicians. ‎

Sabah BN contributes 23 parliamentary seats to the BN’s 134-seat majority in the Dewan Rakyat. BN strategists expect GE14 to be a much closer contest and are predicting a BN victory but with its parliamentary majority slashed to between 122 and 128 seats.


These calculations assume that Sabah BN will do as well as it did in the general elections in 2013.

A key decision for Prime Minister Najib Razak to make before the polls is whether to allow Musa Aman to continue as the Sabah chief minister.

Sabah voters appear to be split on Musa’s performance with 45% saying the was satisfied and the same amount giving him the thumbs down.

But despite the Sabah’s government mediocre ratings, its diverse opposition should not be celebrating. Only 26% of those polled viewed them positively while 48% were dissatisfied with their performance.

Touching on the greater demand for autonomy among Sabahans, Ibrahim Suffian, the executive director of Merdeka Center, noted that it was interesting that while wanting more say in policy-making and finances, they still wanted to be part of Malaysia.

This sentiment suggested that the Sabah voter had little confidence in putting their future in the hands of local leaders.

Dr Zaini Othman of University Malaya Sabah said the support for autonomy is actually a demand for Putrajaya to fulfil its promises under the 20-point Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Among the promises are that the Sabah civil service be dominated by natives of the state, that Sabah raise its own taxes and manage its own finances and that the education system be under the control of the state government.

It remains unclear if regional parties which are campaigning on the autonomy platform, such as Sabah Progressive Party, State Reform Party and Shafie Apdal’s Parti Warisan Sabah ‎will be able to tap into the well of restiveness among voters.

The survey findings suggest that they will have a responsive audience to their call of Sabah for Sabahans. – May 18, 2017.


Merdeka Center