TUARAN, SABAH - Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has announced the formation of an opposition alliance in Sabah to challenge the incumbent Warisan Plus government in the state election, which kicks off on Saturday (Sept 12) with nominations.
The alliance, called Gabungan Rakyat Sabah, comprises Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional coalition (PN), Barisan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah.
Mr Muhyiddin said it was agreed upon by the parties on Friday that only by forming an alliance would they be strong enough to take on the Warisan Plus government led by incumbent Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal.
He made the announcement as he appeared in Tuaran on Saturday morning to show his support for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's state chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, who is defending the Sulaman state seat there.
"Yesterday, we all sat together in a meeting and reached a consensus to name our pact Gabungan Rakyat Sabah," Mr Muhyiddin said, as quoted by The Star newspaper.
"The purpose of all the parties gathering together and contesting in all 73 seats is none other than to replace Warisan Plus as the next state government," he added.
"No one party can do this on its own and win. Only the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah together can build a strong stable government."
Mr Muhyiddin also hinted that if Gabungan Rakyat forms the state government, Mr Hajiji is a potential chief minister.
Candidates for Sabah's 73 state seats will file their nominations on Saturday, with the polling day set on Sept 26.
Mr Muhyiddin, riding on a wave of approval over Kuala Lumpur's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has been forced into an early test of the cohesiveness of his fledgling ruling pact after Datuk Seri Shafie convinced the Sabah governor, a ceremonial head of state, to dissolve the legislature when defectors deprived his Parti Warisan Sabah-led coalition of a majority in July.
Mr Shafie has been nominated as a candidate for the premiership by most opposition parties except Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which insists its president Anwar Ibrahim must ascend to the highest office.
If Mr Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PN fail to deliver in Sabah, he may lack leverage to secure enough seats for his party at the general election.
The Warisan Plus campaign led by Mr Shafie included the Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara - components of the Anwar-led PH coalition - as well as local party United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation.
Former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman who had earlier launched a legal bid to stop the dissolution of the state assembly and have himself declared as the rightful chief minister, was reported to be absent from the Sungai Sibuga nomination centre, where he was expected to submit his nomination form.
Tan Sri Musa from Umno is the incumbent for the Sungai Sibuga state seat.
He had earlier claimed to have enough support to topple Warisan to form a new government.