KOTA KINABALU: Pledges by political parties to create a deputy prime minister (DPM) position for Sabah and Sarawak if they win the general election may not be enough to win the hearts and minds of Sabahans, say political observers.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer Dr Romzi Ationg said while some could be attracted by the offer, others may not be so quick to throw in their support behind parties making such promises.

“It’s (a DPM post) not necessarily what we want the most. Instead, we need the Federal Government to be more sincere and fair to us in all areas,” he said in an interview.

Romzi said sincere pledges to uphold and deliver state rights as well as promises enshrined under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) are more vital.

He said the person who holds the DPM post would be expected to have authority and significant say in ensuring Sabah and Sarawak rights are accounted for, including in development efforts.

“So, yes (the DPM promise may win votes), but that depends largely on whether they (political parties) are sincere with the promise,” he added.

A proposal by rival coalitions to have more than one deputy prime minister has ignited a public debate about the benefit of such a move.

Last week, Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi proposed the creation of three DPM posts to represent Sabah, Sarawak and the peninsula if the coalition were to win big in the election.

Likewise, Pakatan Harapan said it would be appointing two DPMs – one from Peninsular Malaysia and another from Sabah or Sarawak – should it triumph in the 15th General Election.

Since 2020, the post of deputy prime minister has not been filled, but instead, four senior ministers were named to the Cabinet for the portfolios of International Trade and Industry, Education, Works and Defence.

The last time anyone held the deputy prime minister post was Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, whose 40-day stint as one ended after he replaced Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister in August 2021.

Sabah and Sarawak have somewhat welcomed the promises by both coalitions but Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that the post must come with power instead of only being a ceremonial one.

Political analyst Oh Ei Sun was not at all convinced the DPM pledges would win support from voters.

“It will win those ambitious elected politicians into joining the ruling coalition with the hope of being DPM,” he said.