Pundits: Right-veering PAS a handful even for Umno, Bersatu as Malay ruling parties hunker down for GE15

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — The racial rhetoric revived by PAS this week is likely to damage its tenuous ties with Umno and Bersatu as all three Malay Muslim ruling parties prepare for the 15th general election, three political analysts told Malay Mail.

Azmi Hassan, a senior fellow at the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research, said the Islamist PAS is not doing itself any favours by blaming non-Muslims and non-Bumiputera for corruption and demanding the government ban foreign artistes from holding international concerts here, especially when its political allies have been advocating harmony for multicultural Malaysia.

“The ministers and the deputy ministers statements do not bode very well with their capabilities to help the government as they did not show any finesse or expertise to govern on a federal level.

“So it does not matter whether they have Umno or Bersatu, it still doesn’t help them. Compared to Bersatu or Umno ministers, I think PAS is currently way behind in terms of credibility,” he said.

He was referring to PAS government officials rallying behind their party president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang, who said non-Muslims and non-Bumiputera were the “roots of corruption” in the country.

PAS Youth chief Ahmad Fadhli Shaari followed up the provocative statement a few days later by warning the government of a nationwide “resistance” unless it promises to cancel all scheduled international concerts that go against Muslim values.

The demand was made after American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish’s sold-out debut performance before a 25,000-strong crowd at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, which was not the first to draw PAS’ disapproval.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung said PAS’ hardline stance could even be seen as a liability going into GE15 for its Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition partner Bersatu and theoretical ally Umno under the flagging Muafakat Nasional banner.

“Of course PAS wishes to collaborate with certain political coalitions to go stronger in GE15 but I believe any political coalition that wishes to team up with PAS need to consider that PAS is an Islamist party and their political ideology might be suited to certain seats only,” he said.

He said that Bersatu — the youngest Malay party out of the three — would need to strike a deal with the ruling coalitions in Borneo Malaysia to have a chance to reclaim Putrajaya without the Umno-led Barisan Nasional.

“Bersatu will prioritise the relationship with Sabah and Sarawak, but most probably they’ll continue working together with PAS for GE15 because they need to win seats in the peninsula,” Lee said.

The Bersatu-led Gabungan Rakyat Sabah controls the north Borneo state while Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu leads the Gabungan Parti Sarawak coalition in the southern Borneo state.

Both coalitions have been vocal in condemning PAS’ racially inflammatory rhetoric with one Sarawak deputy minister even demanding Hadi be sacked as the prime minister’s special envoy to the Middle East and blacklisted for life from entering Sarawak.

But Universiti Malaya socio-political analyst Awang Azman Pawi said that PAS will need to rein in its Islamist conservatism if it wants to win over non-Malay voters in the peninsula.

Awang Azman pointed out that PN is not wholly Muslim or Malay as there is still the multiracial Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia as a component partner, even though the latter party failed to win a single seat in Election 2018.

“The relationship between PAS and Bersatu will definitely become cold because now PN still needs the support from non-Malay voters. So this situation might increase the tension between both parties.

“Not just that, the relationship between Gerakan also will definitely worsen,” he said.

Bersatu associate wing chief Chong Fat Full has condemned Hadi’s corruption remark as outrageous and not reflective of Malayisia.

The associate wing comprising non-Muslims does not have any voting power within Bersatu but is tasked with recruiting non-Muslim support for general elections.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political analyst Kartini Aboo Talib offered a dissenting view.

She pointed out that PAS has managed to survive all these decades despite adverse politics and has managed to build up strong grassroots support.

She said that it is Bersatu that needs to lean on PAS if PN is to capture Putrajaya in GE15 and not the other way around.

“PAS knows that it has hardcore supporters. PAS can strategically manoeuvre for an alliance with other parties to form a mixed government should PAS win more than 17 seats,” Kartini said, providing a possible outcome if the Islamist party were to forgo PN and contest in GE15 solo.

The five-member PN coalition is celebrating its second anniversary with a convention at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park in Serdang, Selangor today.

The component parties are Bersatu, PAS, Gerakan and Sabah-based entities Parti Progresif Sabah and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku.

Bersatu secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said convention delegates will be outlining PN’s key plans, policies and direction for GE15.