For the 500 Barisan Nasional Youth leaders, particularly those from the peninsula who turned up for the three-day convention, it was an eye-opener.
The Tuaran parliamentary seat is held by
PBS leader Yunof Marinking, a party vice-president.
The convention participants spent their
time not only to strategise for the general election but also to try to convince the constituents that
they should vote Barisan for
The PBS had won Tuaran, a party stronghold, with a majority of 2,006 votes in a straight fight in the 1995 general election.
Last week, almost all the top Umno
leaders headed by Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir
Mohamad campaigned in the state which has 21
parliamentary seats at stake, including Labuan. The PBS has six MPs in the 192-member Dewan Rakyat.
There are several reasons why Umno has
focussed on Sabah. Morale is still high following Barisan's victory in the
March state elections which saw the
coalition winning 31 out of 48
Despite fears that the Datuk Seri Anwar
Ibrahim issue could erode Barisan's
support, Umno won all the 24 state seats
The pro-opposition foreign media had, in fact, written Barisan off. An hour after polling closed, a news agency reported that Barisan had supposedly lost.
In the end, it was the Kadazans who
rejected their leaders in Barisan. The division in the community has been costly they lost their chief minister's post, the important state
Cabinet positions, and their political
As the general election looms nearer,
Umno seems certain of doing well again in Sabah. The Opposition Front
comprising Parti Keadilan Nasional, PAS, DAP and PRM is almost non-existent in the state.
Despite attempts by Keadilan to strike a
pact with PBS, the latter has politely
turned down any formal arrangement. The reason is simple: it would be suicidal for PBS, which has strong backing from Christian groups, to work with PAS which wants to set up an Islamic state.
That aside, PBS doesn't need any help
from these opposition parties and it
certainly has no intention of sharing
any seats with them.
Keadilan is eyeing Labuan, now held by
Barisan so is PBS. Many believe a three-way contest involving the
three parties is likely in Labuan.
While Umno seems certain of winning all
the Muslim bumiputra majority seats,
most Sabah watchers believe that the PBS can maintain the status quo.
Dr Mahathir's two-day visit to
Sabah during which he spoke
in Labuan, Lahad Datu and Kota
Kinabalu marked the second round of his nation-wide tour.
Soon after the state elections, he
visited Ranau, a trip many political
observers interpreted as the start
of his general election campaign.
Equally important is Sarawak, which has
28 parliamentary seats. Except for the
DAP-held Bintulu seat, the state is a
The two states are crucial because they make up almost a third of the seats in Parliament. If the Barisan has the two states in its bag, it will be able to concentrate on the peninsula.
Mathematically, the tussle will be over
seats comprising the rest of the
First Finance Minister Tun Daim
Zainuddin told reporters in Tuaran
that the elections could be held
anytime now since the country had
begun recovering from the economic downturn.
Malaysians were beginning to smile, he
said, adding that it was a sure sign of
But Dr Mahathir has yet to give any
hints of the election date. The Prime
Minister is scheduled to be in New York
from Sept 25 to 29 and in Zimbabwe from
Oct 2 to 6.
The date for the Budget has changed
twice the latest being Oct 29. Those who predict that the polls will be held after October, possibly in November, expect an election budget besides it being a report card on how the country has fared economically.
Many of the campaigners are beginning to show signs of fatigue. They hope Parliament will be dissolved soon
so that they can go full swing.
It must be worse for those in the
opposition. PAS, for example, has
campaigned for the past one year
with a ceramah almost every
Despite the demand from the DAP for a
longer campaign period, the unofficial
campaigning has gone on far too
Barisan campaigners reckon that the
longer the Prime Minister delays in
calling for elections, the greater the
possibility of fresh issues for the Opposition to raise.
Eager they may be, Barisan campaigners
should ask themselves whether they are capable of rebutting questions raised by the Opposition
from the jailing of former Kota
Melaka MP Lim Guan Eng to the alleged
arsenic poisoning of Anwar.
At Tuaran, the Barisan Youth
participants had to wake up at 5am
for exercise, moral
lectures, seminar-paper presentation
and campaigning and only got to bed at about midnight.
To reduce expenses, the organisers packed more than two participants to a
Having gone through such rigorous training, the participants can't wait to put their newly-acquired skills to good use.