PAS’ flirtation with Umno is over, for now

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid, The Malaysian Insider

Perhaps PAS was never even serious about forming a unity government with Umno. It could have been a mere political statement made in an environment saturated by the image of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the big man, and his PKR the leading party in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance.

The question PAS leaders faced was whether they could handle the reality of taking a backseat to Anwar and the alliance. The sight of the relatively young PKR stealing the limelight may not have sat well with PAS either.

The DAP, on the other hand, does not appear to share the same ambivalence towards Anwar and PKR.

At least outwardly, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has not shown any problems with the idea of Anwar being prime minister of a PR federal government.

But that is not the case with the Islamist party.

In the party’s muktamar recently, PAS leaders indicated that the party did not wish to be merely a springboard for Anwar to achieve his ambitions.

So the “unity talks” idea was a way to gain political leverage, to tell both DAP and PKR that the two secular parties needed PAS more than the Islamist party needed them.

Ironically, the obstacle towards cooperation with Umno came from within PAS, from significant numbers of its own members who object staunchly against any cooperation with Umno/BN and the pro-unity party leadership has learned this the hard way.

Umno has seen this as an opportunity to split PR and launched a charm offensive, which left the opposition alliance on the back foot for the first time since last March’s general elections.

Today’s joint declaration by PR leaders in rejecting unity talks with Umno appears to have put an end to the PAS flirtation with Umno.

For now.