Malaysia votes 2018

Sabah emerges as key swing state in Malaysia election

The rising cost of living is an issue for voters like fisherman Abdul Ghafar Radin (centre) in Sabah. Some political analysts based there believe former Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal has an even chance of overthrowing the Umno-led state government
The rising cost of living is an issue for voters like fisherman Abdul Ghafar Radin (centre) in Sabah. Some political analysts based there believe former Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal has an even chance of overthrowing the Umno-led state government that has ruled Sabah for more than two decades.ST PHOTO: LESLIE LOPEZ

Umno and its former vice-president Shafie Apdal's new party to face off in polls

Semporna, a scruffy port town on Malaysia's easternmost point, is an unlikely setting for a campaign launch. But this coastal enclave was where Prime Minister Najib Razak landed soon after Parliament was dissolved in his bid to secure another five-year mandate in the General Election on May 9.

Speaking to several thousand rural Sabahans, many bussed-in from villages and surrounding fishing hamlets, Datuk Seri Najib wasted no time telling his audience that their local hero had "stabbed him in the back".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2018, with the headline 'Sabah emerges as key swing state'. Print Edition | Subscribe