Analysts: When push comes to shove, PAS may still pick Umno over Bersatu

Bersatu’s “strength” in Parliament is bolstered by defectors from Umno, which means there is no guarantee that they would not cross back over if Bersatu does not emerge victorious in GE15.

(MMO) – Political pundits say there is still a chance PAS will partner with Umno going into the next general election, even if the Islamist party recently announced its partnership with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Professor Azmi Hassan said the joint statement made by PAS and Bersatu was nothing new.

“The statement is just reciprocal on what happened during the weekend (Umno general assembly) when Umno was adamant that they want to sever ties with Bersatu.

“Would PAS honour its agreement with Bersatu? For the time being, yes, it looks like PAS is adamant that it wants to work with Bersatu but as I have said, anything can happen from today until GE15 or Parliament is dissolved,” Azmi told Malay Mail.

He pointed out that the agreement is not cast in stone. “PAS still has a little bit of choice, a little bit of leeway to work with Umno.

“And since our politics is very dynamic, there will be changes when GE15 is nearer,” he said.

One of the reasons PAS may choose to work with Umno, Azmi said, is because the Islamist party stands to benefit more by going with Umno.

“Strategically, PAS will go with Umno because at the end of the day, Umno is the real ‘enemy’.

“If PAS co-operates with Umno for seat allocations, they (PAS) can benefit the most from it, compared to working with Bersatu,” Azmi explained.

“Because if PAS agrees to seat allocations with Bersatu, they will need to face Umno, and Umno is a formidable force wherever PAS is going — whether in Kelantan, Terengganu, or Kedah,” he said.

Azmi also said Bersatu currently lacks grassroots support, which would be a critical factor in a tightly-fought general election.

He added that Bersatu’s “strength” in Parliament is bolstered by defectors from Umno, which means there is no guarantee that they would not cross back over if Bersatu does not emerge victorious in GE15.

PAS is allied to Umno via Muafakat Nasional (MN) and to Bersatu in the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition. The party is caught between the feuding parties that are set to clash in GE15.

According to Azmi, the old guard of PAS is the faction that continues to hang on to Umno.

“But the professional leadership — the younger members of PAS — are more inclined to work with Bersatu because they are the government of the day.

“They are basically two groups at loggerheads on whether to work with Umno or to work with Bersatu,” he said.

Throughout the Umno-Bersatu feud, PAS has repeatedly tried to mediate by reminding them of the importance to preserve Malay-Muslim unity.

At the Umno general assembly last week, however, some Umno leaders demanded that PAS choose a side in the feud.

According to Azmi, the best platform for PAS to push for unity is to pick MN. “(By doing so) this will force Bersatu to be more friendly towards MN, if that is the real reason why PAS is still supporting Perikatan Nasional (PN) now,” he said.

At the Umno general assembly, party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reminded PAS of the commitment their parties made to one another in the MN charter.

Among other things, it was agreed the two would not join other political coalitions independently, such as PAS has done by becoming an official member of PN.

Azmi also said that PAS will increasingly aggravate Umno if it continues to side with Bersatu.

“In the long run, Bersatu needs grassroots support — they need more divisions and branches set up — but as we can see now, it is having problems trying to pull grassroots support to the point where it is resorting to try to ‘steal’ Umno members.

“That is why Umno is so upset,” he said.

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