KOTA KINABALU (Feb 26)--Warisan saw another defection on Thursday, thinning down its 21 seats in the Sabah state legislative assembly by one after Sebatik assemblyman Hassan A Gani Pg Amir today announced he has quit Warisan and declared himself an independent who backs the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) ruling coalition.

In Sabah, politics are run differently with defections being the norm well before the shocker that was the Sheraton move and the incumbent is almost always in a position to entice opposition members of parliament and state assemblymen.

With that in mind how will Warisan perform in the coming GE15?

Despite putting up a relatively strong showing in the Sabah state elections, ultimately Warisan did not manage to win back power after Shafie Apral, the former Chief Minister decided to go to polls instead of conceding defeat after a large jumper of assemblymen defected to, with the winners of the election joining Gerakan Rakyat Sabah (GRS).

While it may not be politicised yet, Shafie’s move will almost certainly be blamed for causing the third wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, despite the first move being made by Musa Aman, who triggered the crisis in the first place.

Some have said Shafie should have conceded and instead have worked the ground and built up momentum going into the next scheduled elections, but it has yet to be seen whether his opponents will make use of this. Indeed Sabahans are among the worst hit by the pandemic.

A second factor is that Sabah thrives on personality politics, not party politics with voters voting for individuals of their choice first and less on party lines. This gives enormous power to defectors and considering many of those who jumped just before the state elections recovered their seats despite the most fragmented polls in Malaysia’s history.

>>In total, 19 state lawmakers who defected after being elected in 2018 stood for elections again yesterday.

The results showed that of the 19, only seven lost.

The losers include five candidates who stood as independents - Anita Baranting (Tandek), Musbah Jamli (Tempasuk), Kenny Chua (Inanam), Abdul Rahman Kongkawang (Labuk), and Saddi Abdul Rahman (Sukau).<<

The concerns over Shafie’s grop on the state government was already shaky before the state polls and the indecisiveness of Shafie may have hardened voters against Warisan after it was reported that Shafie was seen trying to meet PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin during the week-long political stalemate over forming a new federal government.

All considered, the state election was the real test for Warisan. After having come to power in the state by drawing defectors, the party was ultimately undermined by defectors and it would seem this is still the case.

Without a new strategy as Shafie himself put it, Pakatan Harapan and by extension Warisan itself could face doom.