Topsy-turvy politics of PAS and the split opposition

If their altruistic motive is to go for a clean and corrupt-free government, they should put aside their political and personal differences and contest in the elections as one united opposition. With too many parties contesting, the country may even end up having a hung parliament. There will again be no political stability.

Moaz Nair, FMT

PAS as a so-called “Islamic” political party has been in and out of partnerships with other parties and coalitions since the past 60-over years. It keeps on changing its goalposts and currently has shifted from a sort of Islamic agenda to Malay nationalism, all for the sake of seeking political power.

Its long-hankered Islamic agenda when Pakatan Harapan (PH) was in power has now been back-burnered. This fickle-minded approach to politics is not portending well for PAS.

And now, it seems that PAS is not teaming up with Umno in this coming general election. With this decision, it can be said that Muafakat Nasional that aimed to unite the Muslim community or ummah for electoral purposes is buried for good, though there may be some PAS stalwarts who would still consider working with Umno after the elections. A win for Umno and BN in GE15 will completely cast PAS aside. A strong and formidable Umno does not need PAS.

As reported, the PAS supremo after a long meeting among the party’s top brass has decided that the party is not going to work with Umno for now, claiming that it is “tainted with corrupt leaders”.

But then, just before the recent dissolution of Parliament, it was reported that PAS leaders met Umno leaders to propose an amicable solution for them to work together in the name of Malay unity.

PAS wants Umno to accept Bersatu. Umno’s condition is that PAS should cut ties with Bersatu if it wishes to work with them. Umno’s rationale is that if PAS could not accept Amanah, a party consisting of former PAS members who left the party, Umno likewise could not accept Bersatu, considering that many of Bersatu’s MPs were from Umno who “jumped ship” after the last general election.

Crestfallen Umno

When BN lost in the last general election and PH came to power, a number of Umno MPs left the party to join Bersatu, a Malay-based party then under the leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

It makes sense that if PAS feels that Malay-based parties should come under one umbrella, they should also reconcile with Amanah. But PAS purportedly could not accept this. So, blame not Umno for not wanting to work with Bersatu.

PAS’ approach to politics has forever been contentious. The party was at one time claiming to be “Islamic”, demeaning Umno was not “Islamic” enough. After PH helmed Putrajaya following the last general election, PAS changed its political stance and started to court Umno.

Its Malay unity approach was spontaneously accepted by crestfallen Umno after its election defeat to PH. To consolidate the Malay votes, Umno decided to work with PAS, which most political pundits contended would not be possible in the long run as politically, both Umno and PAS have always been arch enemies since independence.

Thinking that the Malays can be brainwashed into accepting PAS, the party has been overtly and wildly using DAP as its punching bag, claiming that DAP is “anti-Islam” and that it will call the shots if PH were to win again in the coming general election. Not many political analysts would buy this grandiloquence of PAS, nor would the rational voters.

Penang Malays are not spiteful

Of the 222 parliamentary seats, DAP would most likely contest not more than 50. Even winning all these 50 seats would still be impossible for it to take control of the government. DAP has to work with other Malay-based and multiracial parties if it were to form a government.

Penang is currently under the DAP government. The majority of Penang Muslims are generally content and not spiteful that the state is under DAP administration. There is no issue that the Penang government is anti-Islam, other than that intentionally echoed by the opposition in the state for political expediency. In fact, the state government has been doing more for Islam than the few states under PAS.

If truth be told, PAS’ arch enemy is not DAP but Umno. Since independence, genuine Malay unity in the country’s politics has never existed. PAS had been contesting against Umno in almost all the past elections.

Kedah, Terengganu, and Kelantan may be PAS’ strongholds for now. But Umno is not going to surrender these three states to PAS forever. They will certainly contest against PAS in the coming general election. PAS then has to face Umno, not DAP.

The open-minded Malays are aware of this fact. So, PAS attacking DAP is just a political gimmick to cloud the Malay minds.

A united opposition

Just recently, Mahathir was reported to have said that parties opposing BN should put aside their political and personal differences for the sake of the country and stand against BN candidates as one opposition team.

In other words, if this proposal is accepted, the contest in the coming general election may likely be just a two-cornered fight. Of course, this would augur well for the opposition. But could this idea be accepted by all the parties in the opposition?

The recent state elections in Melaka and Johor are testimony that in the three or more-cornered contests, the votes for the opposition were split. And this gave BN the advantage.

Numerically, though, the combined votes secured by the opposition parties were more than the votes secured by BN in many seats. In this context, Mahathir may be right.

It’s not that BN should be demonised just because of a few alleged “corrupt leaders” still helming the party. The likelihood is that these leaders may weaken BN’s chances of winning the next general election. And, politically, to defeat BN, the only way is for the opposition parties to be united.

No doubt, a few Umno leaders are facing corruption charges and the party is quite tainted with these leaders who will be contesting in the elections. However, Umno still has over three million members and the majority of them are loyal to the party and would give their votes to BN. The issue of corruption was avidly raised in the recent Melaka and Johor state elections but to no effect. It did not change the mindset of BN supporters; the majority still voted for BN.

Too many political parties

Unfortunately, the opposition to BN has too many political parties with each eyeing to contest as many seats as they can. Personal interests have become more important to them than the country’s interests.

If their altruistic motive is to go for a clean and corrupt-free government, they should put aside their political and personal differences and contest in the elections as one united opposition. With too many parties contesting, the country may even end up having a hung parliament. There will again be no political stability.

The country should go for a two-party or coalition system like those in some developed countries.