Hadi’s antics are aimed at winning the youth vote

It would be careless, if not dangerous, to write off the PAS president as delusional and his outbursts as rants.

Murray Hunter, Free Malaysia Today

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s latest antics are causing a ruckus in Malaysian politics, with some critics seeing them as the beginnings of an extremist uprising, out of disappointment at not becoming the legitimate federal government.

Hadi’s critics say his open defiance of the rulers of Selangor, Perak, Johor, and Terengganu can be construed as treasonous.

As the sultans are head of Islam in their respective states, their rulings are mandatory.

This is not the first time PAS leaders have made the rulers lose face in front of their subjects.

In 2020, Perak PAS assemblymen ignored a summons to the palace by Sultan Nazrin Shah, when discussions were being held on the formation of a new state government.

In Selangor, a party official was also at odds with Sultan Sharafuddin Idris over the Bon Odori festival. Former religious affairs minister Idris Ahmad advised Muslims not to attend the Japanese festival. Sultan Sharafuddin however advised the Selangor Islamic Department and the Shah Alam City Council to allow the festival.

Tensions from PAS are coming to a head when their behaviour is construed as extremist.

Method in the madness

These latest rantings are all about the coming state elections.

The sabre rattling by PAS, along with Hadi talking about toppling the government, either through elections or inside the Parliament, is aimed at motivating youths to come out and vote for Perikatan Nasional in the state elections.

Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Penang, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan are due to have elections before September. PAS already holds three of the six states and has plans to win two more.

In Negeri Sembilan 23 out of 36 seats are at play. PAS kampungs are well established in many of the rural communities within the state.

Selangor will be a bitterly fought state as well. If by any chance PN takes the state, this would take away the jewel of the peninsula, just like Pakatan Harapan took Selangor from the Barisan Nasional back in 2008. This would wound the image of the unity government, and force Anwar Ibrahim to work much longer on re-establishing a sense of legitimacy.

Hadi and Muhyiddin know that Umno and PKR are electorally weak in Malay-majority seats. Opinion polls haven’t shown much change since the last general election. PN will attack hard, given an opportunity they can’t pass up.

The six state elections involve 42% of the national population. Around 10% of voters are aged between 18-24. This is the cohort Hadi has been focusing upon.

The Malay youth has been educated in Islam, many attending madrasahs and Islamic schools, and undergoing part time Islamic education. They don’t have the same social ties to the Malay monarchs as their parents did. They have been subjected to Islamic views from teachers over the last generation. It is this group that Hadi is attempting to tap through his rhetoric.

Hadi’s rhetoric and confrontation will motivate many young Malay voters to come out to support PN. Within this youth cohort worldview, voting for Islam is the natural thing to do.

If Hadi can motivate this group to come out and vote, as much as a 5% swing towards PN could be achieved in many state seats, enough to influence the outcome of the elections dramatically.

For example, even in the PH stronghold of Penang, a 5% swing will influence the outcomes in as many as 21 of the 40 seat assembly. This could give PN as many as 10-12 seats in Penang. Gerakan also believes they can win a seat.

PAS will retain Kelantan and Terengganu and after the election will consolidate and extend their Islamisation of government and society.

PN will consolidate their position in Kedah, and begin to follow Kelantan and Terengganu. This is an opportunity for PAS to extend its vision of an Islamic Malaysia.

Many pundits see Hadi’s outbursts as a rise in extremism. Perhaps Hadi’s antics can better be seen as a retaliation to what PN sees as persecution through legal investigation, and placing charges against top PN leaders.

In this light, the first salvos for the coming state elections have been fired by both sides. The unity government has been smearing Bersatu, while PAS is mustering up the youth cohort for a “political jihad” at the coming elections.

It is dangerous to disregard Hadi as being delusional. His reckless rants have a firm objective. Hadi is a cunning fox. It would be careless to write them off as just rants for they could be a very successful strategy for PN.