KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 ― Islamist party PAS should not be underestimated as it will likely be influential in at least the next two general elections after winning two states in the polls, an academic has suggested today.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's (UKM) Datuk Denison Jayasooria said Malaysians should be wary of PAS' push for a Shariah-based governance where non-Muslims's place is under an Islamic society and order.
“They won two states, and almost influenced two other state governments,” Denison said in a post-GE14 analysis by the International Islamic University Malaysia Electoral Studies Unit at the university here.
In the polls, PAS had defended Kelantan and taken over Terengganu from Barisan Nasional. It also almost became “kingmakers” in Kedah and Perak, where the majority of state seats won by the Pakatan Harapan government was slim.
“Don't underestimate PAS, I see them as a real power in next two general elections,” added the principal research fellow at UKM's Institute of Ethnic Studies.
He had compared the rising wave of Islamism to India's Hindutva party Indian People's Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, which won its 2014 general elections.
Denison pointed out that PAS managed to capture 18 per cent of the popular vote, demonstrating there are still many Malaysians who wish for their version of a better Malaysia, one based on Shariah principles.
In addition, he said PAS also fielded ethnic Chinese and Indian candidates in the election, although most not only lost the contest but also their deposits.
This will be further compounded by the lack of any representation of Kelantan and Terengganu in the Cabinet, and the absence of a ministry in charge of racial unity and integration, he warned.
Denison said it remains to be seen what variant of Shariah will be sought, its implications, the extent to which Putrajaya is being pressured to implement these, and whether Malaysians will support such a push.
“Post-general election, there is this contestation of religion, race, and inter-religious harmony, which has become more central,” he said.
“Come July, for the first time, the Opposition will be Malay-Muslim,” he added, referring to Umno and PAS.