Shafie Apdal

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal

COVID-19 a devastating effect on Warisan’s voter turnout

While the Chinese voters had COVID-19 concerns, those from outside Sabah did not commute and this might have impacted Warisan more

The COVID-19 impact on voting in Sabah last Saturday hurt the Warisan voter base more than others.

An analyst writing in Malaysiakini says voter turnout was decisive in shaping the Sabah outcome.

The absence of many outstation voters and a drop in the ethnic supporters of Warisan contributed to the results.

Voter turnout dropped across ethnic communities. A drop in Chinese voters was mostly due to negative impact of Covid-19 on the voting process.

The Election Commission reports a turnout of 66.6 percent. This is a drop of 11 percent at the state level from 77 percent in GE14.

“Turnout was decisive in shaping the Sabah 2020 outcome. Every vote did count literally, with three of the contests won with less than one percent of the vote. Another six seats won with less than five percent of the vote (12 percent of overall seats in the contest),” writes Bridget Welsh.

Welsh is a Senior Research Associate at the Hu Fu Centre for East Asia Democratic Studies. She is also a Senior Associate Fellow of The Habibie Centre. 


She says there are two overall trends in the voter turnout. One is a drop across ethnic communities and many outstation voters did not come back.

Second, there were differences among communities, with those supporting Warisan Plus in GE14 reporting the most significant drop in turnout.

“Chinese voter turnout dropped a whopping 16 percent. This followed the smaller ‘other’ minority communities, notably Bugis, at 14 percent, and Bajau-Suluk at 13 percent.

“Kadazan-Dusun and Murut (KDM) communities also experienced a drop in voter turnout by nine percent and eight percent respectively. These low figures among Warisan traditional supporters help us understand why predictions of Warisan victory were overestimated.”

She says the results show the negative impact of Covid-19 on voting, which disproportionately was a concern among Chinese voters.

There was the effects of elite defection and greater cynicism among voters over issues such as ‘frogging’ and ‘government’ announcements. “

Also clear is the Warisan Plus’s campaign did not mobilise its GE14 supporters to the same degree in this campaign. This in comparison to GE14.

Warisan Plus parties lacked strong machinery, especially in rural areas, and were not able to bring their voters out operationally.

“At the same time, the ‘mood’ this time was not as strong. The ‘political wind’ did not have the same force as before,” she says, surely speaking of the 2018 election mood.”

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