KOTA KINABALU, Sept 25 — Voters in Sabah go to the polls tomorrow in a snap election demanding precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over one million people are eligible to cast their ballots in the 16th state election that sees a crowded field of 447 candidates from 15 parties, as well as independents, vying for 73 seats in the state legislative assembly in multi-cornered contests that average six candidates per seat.
Health and security authorities have taken all precautionary measures to ensure that the voters will be able to exercise their right safely and with ease.
Up to 1,594 health personnel have been deployed to the 741 polling stations throughout the state while the police have given the assurance that the people can come out to vote without fear.
A total of 14,935 people have voted by post while 76 percent of 16,877 people exercised their right as early voters on Sept 22.
Election Commission (EC) chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh said 2,540 polling streams have been set up at the 741 polling stations, and 17,257 election workers will ensure smooth polling.
He also said that the EC will use 20 helicopters to transport ballot boxes and papers to the interior areas, including Sekolah Kebangsaan Saliliran in the Nabawan constituency and Pulau Dinawan in the Sulabayan constituency.
Abdul Ghani gave the assurance that there will be no phantom voters in this election.
He said the results of the election are expected to be known at 10 pm at the earliest.
Voters in some areas are advised to be prepared for rain tomorrow for the weatherman has predicted showers in one or two areas in the West Coast, Kudat, Interior and Sandakan divisions in the morning and thunderstorms in one or two areas in the West Coast, Interior and Sandakan divisions in the evening.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali gave the assurance that polling will proceed smoothly without any incident and advised voters to come out and exercise their right without any fear.
He warned that the police will act against anyone who tries to provoke the people or create chaos during the election, and advised the people to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 SOPs.
Of the 73 seats at stake are 13 new seats, namely Bengkoka, Bandau, Limbahau, Tulid, Segama, Kukusan, Pintasan, Pantai Dalit, Darau, Tanjung Keramat, Lamag, Telupid and Sungai Manila.
Seats of particular interest are Senallang, Sulaman, Pintasan, Bongawan, Tambunan and Api-Api.
Chief Minister and Parti Warisan Sabah president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is defending Senallang in a six-cornered contest that also includes a nephew, Norazman Utoh Nain, a Perikatan Nasional (PN) candidate.
Sabah Bersatu chief and Sabah PN chairman Datuk Hajiji Noor is defending the Sulaman seat in a three-cornered contest, with the main challenger being Datuk Aliasgar Basri of Warisan.
USNO chief and former Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia; Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) president and former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman; STAR president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Sabah PKR chairman Datuk Christina Liew are contesting the Pintasan, Bongawan, Tambunan and Api-Api seats, respectively.
The most hotly contest seat is Api-Api where incumbent Christina Liew is up against Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) deputy president Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai; PCS deputy president Datuk Pang Yuk Min; LDP president Datuk Chin Su Phin and five others.
The Sabah election is being held after Mohd Shafie sought the dissolution of the state legislative assembly on July 30, a day after former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman claimed he had the majority support among state assemblymen to form a new government.