BOTH of them, Bung Moktar and Shafie Apdal, were in the same ship during the Barisan Nasional’s premiership, which the former used to be a chairman to a government corporation under the ministry led by the latter, who was then the federal rural minister.

After the current Sabah chief minister was sacked by the previous prime minister, he formed a new party named Parti Warisan Sabah that had then befriended with the four-party coalition Pakatan Harapan in forming a new ruling government that unseated BN from the political clout they held for decades.

After about two years since the victorious moment of PH in the 14th GE, Shafie Apdal now faces his former comrade Bung Moktar, who is now the Sabah’s UMNO chief and the one and only Sabah politician in the House of Representatives who still flies the UMNO flag.

Bung Moktar has his own strengths that can’t be blindly underestimated by his political rivals while Shafie Apdal, who has been known as a “big-named politician” with several governmental positions held by him, so in terms of political credential, may be seen as a “well-deserved man” to lead the Borneo state that was previously chief-ministered by Tan Sri Musa Aman.

But in politics, being a minister even for decades doesn’t guarantee one to be an excellent people’s representative. Ministership is an anointment, but becoming a ‘wakil rakyat’ is impossible if one fails to win in an election.

When other colleagues of his, including two Sabahan ministers, were ‘killed off’ in the last election, Bung Moktar survived. He proved to the world that he didn’t need to be crowned with a ministership to win the hardly-won election as the people of Kinabatangan love him so much.

That’s true. To win an election, an electoral candidate needs to be loved by his or her own constituents first. Making them “happy” in their own styles is how politicians like Bung Moktar sustain in politics.

Like Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz, even though he had been detested by many Malaysians when he was minister, he could still win the parliamentary seat he has fought for many terms because he completely knows to remain as an MP, he has to be loved by his constituents.

In this Kimanis by-election, despite two names— Mohamad Alamin and Karin Bujang being registered as the candidates, the real fight of the by-election is actually between Shafie Apdal and Bung Moktar.

If we notice, many issues that have been mouthed by the political leaders in their campaign speeches and statements are all about these two figures’ doings. From praising their good old deeds and contributions to condemning their setbacks, Bung and Shafie look like the contestants in the by-election.

Both of them are now seen as “two godfathers of Sabah” who are in a marathon of winning the Sabahans’ hearts. This by-election is like their first ten kilometres, and who will be winning the race will be determined by their progressional works after this by-election.

With the autonomy fully given to Sabah’s UMNO, Bung Moktar has every power to orchestrate strategies of winning the Borneo state in the next 15th general election. He is now more powerful than his former employer Musa Aman.

And the Shafie Apdal-led Sabah Heritage Party seems struggling to convince the people of their competitive advantages over other existing political parties in the region, especially UMNO. The WARISAN chief has to ensure that his respectful image he has earned as a Sabahan political leader will bring sustainable victories to the party he found.

So, who do you think will win the battle?

* Amerul Azry Abdul Aziz is an independent writer who now views politics as something that can be researched.

**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.