GEORGE TOWN, July 12 — PAS may be reviewing its alliance with Perikatan Nasional and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, according to experts’ reading of the Islamist party’s president's willingness to openly contradict his Bersatu counterpart.
They believed PAS was weighing its political options ahead of the 15th general election before deciding which of the two Malay nationalist rivals to work with, the offshoot Bersatu or the older Umno.
Up until last week, PAS had been a staunch ally of Bersatu, openly favouring the latter despite the damage to its older cooperation with Umno in the form of the Muafakat Nasional charter that predated PN.
Last week, however, PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang openly declared that his party would not use the PN logo in the general election, after Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin claimed the coalition’s parties would compete as a unit.
Hadi also rejected Muhyiddin’s assertion that PN had a formal agreement with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob for the coalition to be given the position of the deputy prime minister, undermining both Muhyiddin’s claim and credibility.
Senior Fellow of Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun said PAS could be contemplating a renewal of its partnership with Umno, believing its fortunes were rising once again.
“I don’t think they have made up their mind, but like everybody else, they are exploring their options,” he said.
Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Pawi from Universiti Malaya (UM) noted that PAS previously did not have issues with the PN logo, having contested using it in recent state elections.
Consequently, he said the sudden change of heart in Hadi’s remarks could only be construed as PAS starting to pull away from Bersatu.
“It is as if they are disassociating themselves from Bersatu and maybe, they are trying to find ways to negotiate a deal with Umno,” he said.
He said Umno now has the support of the grassroots and this was further strengthened by its efficient election machinery as compared to Bersatu.
However, he said it remained to be seen if Umno would be willing to accept PAS as an ally, after the Islamist party snubbed it twice in favour of PN during the Melaka and Johor state elections.
Director of Asia Institute, University of Tasmania, James Chin, believed that Umno was too aggrieved with PAS to be willing to forgive and forget those slights and no longer convinced the former rival was still politically useful.
“PAS is stuck with Bersatu and all this noise from PAS is just positioning by the party,” Chin said.
He believed PAS was trying to assert its dominance within PN to show that it is the senior party in the coalition.
He said Bersatu’s brand has gone down among the Malay, so PAS now want to be seen as the stronger party within PN, especially after Bersatu’s losses in Melaka and Johor by-elections.