PAS won’t reach Putrajaya via Malay heartland, analysts say

Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi share the limelight at the anti-ICERD rally, December 8, 2018. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi share the limelight at the anti-ICERD rally, December 8, 2018. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — PAS’ dalliance with Umno will only leave it confined to the rural states as governing a diverse Malaysia will require the support of all communities, according to analysts.

Datuk Mohammad Agus Yusoff, from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, explained that the partnership will lull both into thinking that the support of the country’s largest community was enough to seize control of the federal government come 2023.

However, he said political parties cannot afford to focus on any single community for this goal, pointing out that Pakatan Harapan (PH) won the 2018 election by appealing to as wide an audience as possible.

“It’s not wrong to want to strengthen Malay unity, or to safeguard Malay supremacy or Malay politics.

“But if you only talk about Malays instead of talking about Malaysia, you cannot go far,” Agus told Malay Mail.

The political analyst noted that Barisan Nasional (BN), which had governed Malaysia for over 60 years until the 14th general election, used to enjoy diverse support. BN’s three founding parties — Umno, MCA, and MIC — represented Malays, Chinese, and Indians respectively.

PAS, which won Kelantan and Terengganu in the 2018 election but lost representatives in the western states of the peninsula, recently organised a mass protest in the capital city together with Umno against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a United Nations treaty.

Both Islamist PAS and the Malay nationalist Umno announced after their rally that they would form a joint committee to protect Malay rights and the position of Islam.

Universiti Putra Malaysia analyst Jayum Jawan said such a message will not find traction beyond Kelantan and Terengganu where Malay voters comprised more than 80 per cent of the states’ populations.

“It is basically a political party surviving on playing to Malay and Islam cards.

“So, outside the two states, the party will not have much appeal because other states need non-Malay, non-Muslim support to be able to form a comfortable ruling party that needed the cooperation of non-Malays as well. What’s more of Malaysia that is multi-ethnic,” he told Malay Mail.

James Chin, director of Asia Institute from the University of Tasmania, said PAS has decided to work with Umno and embrace greater conservatism in terms of Islam and Malay nationalism in the belief that Malays will perceive by the 15th general election that they were worse off under PH.

“PAS people tell me that this a great opportunity for them take over Umno supporters since many Umno supporters think the party has no future and are, therefore, looking for a new party,” Chin told Malay Mail.

Pacific Research Centre principal advisor Oh Ei Sun said PAS and Umno each commanded about 30 to 40 per cent of Malay support and had inadvertently split the Malay vote in the May 9 election.

“But if they somehow combine and coordinate their support [bases], such as by making sure only one candidate from either party is put up in significantly Malay constituencies, then potentially they can win the next GE with token non-Malay support.

“And their ensuing coalition government can be a racially supremacist and/or theocratic one as per their respective goals,” Oh told Malay Mail.

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