Sabah state election, 1985

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The 1985 Sabah state election was held from 20 April to 21 April 1985 in the state of Sabah, Malaysia. This was the fifth state election to take place. Parti Bersatu Sabah won 25 out 48 seats contested, thus forming government with its president Joseph Pairin Kitingan being sworn in as Chief Minister. This election is a milestone in Sabah political history as it marked the first time that a party not part of the nation's ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) formed government.[1] PBS took control of the state from the previous ruling government under Parti Berjaya—a partner of BN, which has been in power since 1976.


Party Seats
Seat won
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) 45 25
United Sabah National Organisation (USNO) 43 16
BERJAYA/Barisan Nasional (BN) 48 6
Parti Bersatu Rakyat Bumiputra Sabah (BERSEPADU) 27 0
Parti Bertindak Rakyat Sabah Bersatu (BERSIH) 7 0
Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Pasok Nunukragang Bersatu (PASOK) 9 1
Democratic Action Party (DAP) 3 0
Total (where applicable) N/A 48

The aftermath[edit]

Pairin, himself a former member of Party Berjaya, formed PBS barely 47 days before the elections.[1] Opponents of PBS, namely, Harris Salleh of Berjaya, and Tun Mustapha of USNO were dissatisfied with the result. Tun Mustapha then sought to get sworn in as Chief Minister illegally,[2] and this resulted in a court battle which ended in favour of Pairin.[3][4]

The election resulted in riots around Sabah between March and May 1986. Bombings occurred in Kota Kinabalu, and arson in other towns. The rioters were trying to bring down Pairin from being the head of the state government.

In 1986 itself, another election was announced following defections by PBS assemblymen to USNO. PBS won again, this time with a two-thirds majority.[5] PBS joined the Barisan Nasional coalition after this election, but later left the coalition in 1990.


  1. ^ a b K. Ramanathan Kalimuthu. "The Sabah State Elections of April 1985". Asian Survey, Vol. 26, No. 7. Retrieved 18 January 2008. 
  2. ^ Kalimullah Hassan (18 November 2007). "OPINION: Reforms yes, but not through violence in the streets". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2008. 
  3. ^ Crossette, Barbara (1 October 1987). "Kota Kinabalu Journal; With Houses on Stilts and Hopes in Another Land". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2007. 
  4. ^ "Historical Background". Parti Bersatu Sabah. Retrieved 18 January 2008. 
  5. ^ "Is snap polls the answer?". The Star. 22 June 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2009.