Pakatan can’t progress with PKR clinging on to PAS, leaders say


(MMO) – Pakatan Harapan cannot expect to present a united front in the next general election if coalition partner PKR insists on maintaining ties with PAS, opposition leaders and analysts said.

Pakatan Harapan has been struggling since its formation, and PKR’s refusal to cut the cord with PAS, with whom it shares administrative power in Selangor, and DAP’s continued animosity with the Islamist party, threaten to force the nine-month-old alliance down the same road as its precursor Pakatan Rakyat.

The tension was largely the cause of the bickering before campaigning began in the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections, and is seen as a harbinger of the even bigger showdown expected in two years, when Pakatan Harapan enters its first federal polls contest.

Leaders in the pact said PKR needs to make a decision on PAS soon and that the June 18 by-elections should demonstrate the latter party’s intention to stand on its own as a third force in Malaysian politics.

“A decision has to be made soon, and PAS has made clear that they have no problems with three-corner fights, and they are acknowledging cosying up to Umno,” a senior PKR leader said on condition of anonymity.

He told Malay Mail Online that PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali had insisted on last minute negotiations with PAS for the two by-elections despite PAN wanting to contest the seats, and this resulted in the delay in announcing Pakatan Harapan’s candidates.

“The party’s (PKR) placating of PAS has resulted in difficulties making major decisions, like the candidates for the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-election,” the leader said.

“The only way Pakatan Harapan can move forward in the 14th general election is if PKR makes a decision to cut off ties with PAS for good,” he added.

DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke said cutting ties with PAS has been something his party has been harping on since Pakatan Harapan’s formation last year.

“For DAP, as far as we are concerned, we are saying that from the demise of Pakatan Rakyat, we have to make a clean break. PAS has shown time and time again their true colours.

“PKR has to decide in the run-up to the next general election,” Loke told Malay Mail Online.

He explained that the issue of the Selangor government and PAS’s position there should not be a factor.

The lawmaker pointed out that the current arrangement in Selangor, where Pakatan Harapan’s PKR, DAP and PAN share power with PAS, would expire when the next federal contest arrives.

“End of cooperation once state assembly dissolved,” he said. “PAS has made it pretty clear that they will become a third bloc based on the two by-elections.”

PANcommunications director Khalid Samad said his party hopes the results of the two by-elections will help all parties reach a decision on the future of their alliances.

“I would not make a decision on the matter (cutting ties with PAS) just yet, but hopefully the two by-elections will make PAS change the mind, and if they do badly they will reconsider their approach.

“But if they still not bothered (to work with Pakatan Harapan) then the coalition’s leadership has shown the willingness to make a decision to go for three-cornered fights in the future,” the Shah Alam MP told Malay Mail Online.

Dr Faisal Hazis, associate professor at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said it would be virtually impossible for Pakatan Harapan to remain united with PAS in the picture.

“This means that the opposition cannot have two separate coalitions like the arrangement they have now (with PAS). It just doesn’t work.

“PAS has abandoned the centrist messages that had kept the opposition together,” he told Malay Mail Online.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore believes that Pakatan Harapan’s weak presence in rural Malay areas was a main reason why some parties like PKR still wants to maintain ties with PAS.

Faisal said that realistically the opposition needed PAS to be a viable alternative to BN but such a scenario was no longer possible due to PAS’s recent actions.

“Pakatan Harapan is still very weak in the rural Malay heartland, where only PAS’s legendary organisational prowess and spiritual appeal can barely match the ‘material inducement’ of the gargantuan Umno behemoth,” he said.

Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar will vote this June 18. The contest is Pakatan Harapan’s first peninsula battle with former ally PAS.