The true potential of Amanah

The progressives deserve their day in the sun

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

The fragmentation of the Malay vote continues to be one of the more fascinating potential gamechangers of the next general election. Umno, PAS, PKR, Amanah, and PPBM each represents a paradigm of the concerns of the Malays. While Umno and PAS have predictably made noises about the need for a united Malay ideology, the truth is this fragmentation is far more representative of Malay political thought, which is by no means monolithic and singular despite the fervent wishes of those who would gain from an unthinking electorate.

That being said, there are too many parties professing to champion the Malays, and this does not translate well into an electoral strategy for the opposition as Umno and PAS will be able to command a certain majority of the Malay votes based on their ideological supremacy in the heartlands. Since PAS intends to still run as part of a third coalition, there is a real fear that in a three-way battle the opposition will lose due to the fragmentation of the pro-opposition Malay vote. This has led to the overtures towards PAS by PPBM and PKR.

There remains much speculation on the return of PAS to the Pakatan fold through PPBM, given the Islamist party’s disdain for DAP and Amanah. However, in the multitude of options available, one approach that has not been discussed is to unite the Malay elements of Pakatan Harapan through the merging of PKR and Amanah.

Only egoistic concerns would argue against such a merger – which party agenda takes precedence, which leaders will make up the committee, and all other such matters of prestige and position which, we must remind ourselves, are matters that voters do not consider a top priority as opposed to creating a coalition actually capable of change.

Beyond that, a PKR-Amanah merger makes sense. Both are splinters of large parties. PKR is made up largely of Umno rebels who followed Anwar Ibrahim out of the party and Amanah is made up of those who could not stomach Abdul Hadi Awang’s pivot to ultra-conservatism following the death of PAS spiritual guide Nik Abdul Aziz Mat. Both purport to have a more progressive vision for the Malays beyond affirmative action policies and hand-holding, and both parties contain some of the cream of the crop when it comes to Malay thought leaders.

But truly, the merger will make use of Amanah’s greatest asset – its intellectual capacity. The former progressive wing of PAS was able to reconcile the arguments of Islam with the modern age, promoting understanding and providing context to traditional laws and customs. Widely accepted by the moderate and liberal voting public, Amanah is raw unrealised potential. PKR would benefit from the embrace of Amanah’s new ideas, given the controversy over its own internal politics.

Make no mistake, Amanah must be an equal partner in the merger. Shuffling the party’s hidden gems into PKR’s fold will defeat the purpose of such a move. Introducing this third force into the fraught tightrope act between Azmin Ali and Wan Azizah could even out the conflict between the party’s top leadership and begin moving PKR into position as the prime multiracial party of Pakatan. The widespread acceptance of Amanah will make it easy for the non-Malays to get behind the merged entity.

Amanah has shown the signs that it can be great, and help move the political discussion in the country forward into the decade we live in. Now all it needs is the platform.