Pakatan will move forward but on PAS’s terms

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — The high turnout at the Permatang Pasir by-election yesterday and PAS’s convincing victory has only strengthened the Islamist party’s position in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition.

It was the latest example that for PR to move forward, it has to be on PAS’s terms.

Yesterday, some 47 per cent of the 20,350 voters in the Penang state constituency voters came out to make Mohd Salleh Man the new Permatang Pasir assemblyman.

Compare this to the Penanti by-election in late May where PKR only attracted 39 per cent — despite weekend polling — of some 15,000 voters to elect the new Deputy Chief Minister of Penang Mansor Othman.

The two results confirmed the suspicion of many, even among PKR leaders, that the multi-racial party has a long way to go in developing a strong support base in Malay areas.

It is true that Umno’s refusal to contest in Penanti had partly caused the low turnout, but the difference is just too huge for it to be caused by the Malay nationalist party alone.

It was during the Penanti campaign also that state PAS leaders demanded to contest the seat after it was vacated by Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin who had earlier quit his government post in a very suspicious manner, a decision described by many including those in state PAS as irresponsible.

Local grassroots leaders even threatened to boycott the campaign to show PAS’s strength in the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency and yesterday’s high turnout proved that PAS does have strong machinery.

And the attempts by certain party leaders to promote stricter implementation of Islamic laws might have made many people within PR unhappy fearing that the coalition would lose the support of the non-Muslims, but that did not happen yesterday.

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