Analysts: With split from PKR, PAS gets wish to be kingmaker in GE14

DAP and Amanah have repeatedly pushed Pakatan Harapan to cease efforts on PAS, and to focus on the parties that are already in the pact. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
DAP and Amanah have repeatedly pushed Pakatan Harapan to cease efforts on PAS, and to focus on the parties that are already in the pact. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — PAS has achieved its short-term goal of becoming a third force in Malaysian politics for the next general election by successfully positioning itself to be courted by both Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional after severing ties with PKR, said analysts.

They also believe that while Pakatan Harapan should move on and consolidate its election strategy without PAS, it could not reply to the Islamism party’s hostility without damaging itself.

In Selangor, for example, three PAS representatives remain executive councillors even though there are no longer links between their Islamist party and the informal pact governing. Pakatan Harapan has also made no move to replace them, for fear of unsettling its hold on the state.

“Indeed, with its still considerable influence among the rural conservatives, PAS still holds sways in the next election and is thus courted by both sides,” Oh Ei Sun, adjunct senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told Malay Mail Online.

However, he said it would be “foolhardy” for Pakatan Harapan parties such as PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) to continue hoping for PAS’s political cooperation, and that “jilted lovers should not cling on to an old flame.”

The analyst also said the best move for Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali right now would be to continue running the state government with the PAS executive councillors by his side.

Replacing the PAS excos could cause its 13 Selangor assemblymen to switch sides and officially whittle Azmin’s hold on the state assembly from 42 out of 56 seat to just 29, the smallest majority available.

This would not cause the Selangor administration to collapse, but would make it extremely unstable and vulnerable to the defections.

“This late stage in the term is no guarantee that this would not happen. I think Azmin should just be honest with the voters, telling them he wants a stable government,” Oh explained.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political analyst Faisal Hazis said PAS has proven to be an unreliable coalition partner and demonstrated its inability to be a team player by turning its back on federal opposition parties.

At the same time, it has also begun touting is dalliances with Umno, outwardly a direct rival, as a sign of “mature politics”.

“Basically what PAS is trying to do, is to become the so-called third force in Malaysian politics, acting as if they are kingmakers, like they can negotiate with Pakatan, BN,” he told Malay Mail Online.

He said that PAS’s justification in severing ties with PKR was also untenable, as enhancing the Shariah courts was never part of the Opposition’s common manifesto.

Like Oh, Faisal said the Selangor PAS excos should be allowed to remain until the current term expires, saying it would be for the greater good of the state to bear with the three until the general election that must be held next year at the latest.

Deputy director of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute Ooi Kee Beng said, however, that Azmin would have to convince PKR, Amanah and DAP privately on the necessity to keep the three PAS leaders in the state government.

DAP and Amanah have repeatedly pushed the pact to cease efforts on PAS, and to focus on the parties that are already in Pakatan Harapan.

PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia have both refused to write off the Islamist party, however, due to the Malay-Muslim audience that is common to all three.

“Their pining for PAS says more about the sorry state of Malaysian politics and of Malaysian voters’ limited way of thinking about politics than about opposition dynamics.

“In Malaysia, governance is not seen as a largely technical matter but as an eternal gangland skirmish,” Ooi said.

On Thursday, PAS officially ended all links or cooperation with PKR, with the Islamist party’s powerful Syura Council deciding that the move was necessary in order to defend the party’s Islamic agenda.

The Syura Council accused PKR of breaking many terms of its conditional cooperation with PAS, failing to support the Islamist party in its Islamic agenda, and working against it in two by-elections last year.

PAS’s separation from the larger Opposition could lead to multi-cornered contests in the general election that would be advantageous to the ruling BN, with some analyses predicting that the Islamist party could end up the biggest loser.

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