LAST_UPDATEFri, 20 Jul 2018 6pm

PAS’ Separation From The Opposition Coalition Makes Them Irrelevant In GE14

Pic: Berita HarianPic: Berita Harian

PAS, under the Gagasan coalition, revealed their manifesto last week for the upcoming 14th general election (GE14) but it was met with a lukewarm reception.

Some say that the manifesto was a failure from the get go but these naysayers still believe that PAS, who aims to be kingmaker, will play an important role in the election.

But how much are those involved concerned about PAS’ presence and will the Islamist party be relevant at all in the nation’s political scene from here on out?

Too Much Uncertainty Causing PAS To Lose Support

According to former PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar, PAS is not ready to face the upcoming GE14 because of their uncertain politics where their goals and direction in Malaysia’s power politics are unknown.

Before PAS’ split from Pakatan Rakyat in 2015, Mahfuz said PAS used to be committed in the cause to wrest power from the ruling government when they joined the three-party opposition alliance in GE13 but their recent waffling in the number of seats they want to contest in is a testament to their uncertainty.

Datuk Mahfuz OmarDatuk Mahfuz Omar“First they wanted to contest in 80 seats and win 40, then they increased it to 100 seats and win 40 as well just so that they will be able to become a kingmaker.

“But in the end, PAS members pointed out that it was not relevant for them to become a kingmaker because it would be cheating PAS members and voters, and so they then increased it to 130 seats in the context of wanting to govern,” said the recent member of Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).

“And the most recent statement by PAS said that they would be the advisor to the government if they cannot govern. This constant change shows uncertainty in the direction of PAS’ power politics,” the Pokok Sena Member of Parliament said.

Mahfuz went on to say that this uncertainty will cause long-time PAS voters to reject the party seeing that their voters are made up of people who are hoping for a power shift to happen in GE14 and they could see PAS acting as a crutch that will help UMNO stay in power due to PAS’ desire to become a kingmaker.

The rejection by PAS voters will play a significant role in three-cornered fights as Mahfuz is confident that PAS’ presence would only benefit Pakatan Harapan (PH), which PAN is part of, instead of spoiling PH’s chances.

“I would have been worried if PAS joined or made a political pact with BN for the upcoming election, not after the event but earlier on, as it would be a one-on-one battle and would affect PH’s chances because the coalition will bring with them two hardcore voters from UMNO and PAS.

“But when PAS comes into the picture and provide a split vote, that will benefit PH because UMNO and PAS will both fight to get the vote of hardcore Malays where PAS would try to get the vote of a hardcore UMNO Malay voters while UMNO would try to get the vote of hardcore Malay voters who are still loyal to PAS,” he said.

At the end of the day, Mahfuz said that the rejection that PAS could face from their voters will be PAS’ own doing as their actions so far have helped shape the mindset of voters.

“The Malaysian society today is a society that is politically literate where they are able to evaluate the political parties’ actions.

“So the actions taken by PAS will influence voters, including voters who have always been loyal to PAS but cannot work with UMNO/BN at all and so they cannot accept PAS becoming a crutch to UMNO,” he said.

PAS’ Ability Is Questionable After Opposition Split

Political analyst Prof Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain similarly believes that it would be difficult for PAS to win many seats in the GE14.

He noted the several factors they need to contend with among them include, contesting alone; party members leaving PAS and joining Amanah; the issue of its leader allegedly receiving money from UMNO; development issues in Kelantan that failed to be addressed such as logging, land, water and etc; as well as the much highlighted RUU355 that failed to be passed.

Prof Dr Ahmad Atory HussainProf Dr Ahmad Atory HussainAtory pointed out that one of the proposals in PAS/Gagasan’s manifesto that seeks to empower Islam as ad-din (a way of life) could raise doubts among voters due to the aforementioned RUU355.

“I think that their proposal to empower Islam as ad-din is very interesting but I wonder if PAS would be able to carry it out because their ability is in question when RUU355 was not even debated in Parliament,” he said.

He also commented that PAS’ presence in the inevitable three-cornered fights would not be in their favour but would be crucial for swing votes.

“In a three-cornered fight, studies by Invoke, Ilham and Merdeka Survey Centre found that 60 per cent of on-the-fence voters will vote for PH, thus PH will win especially in parliamentary seats when BN’s victory margin in GE13 was too narrow.

“Although the redelineation of voting area will favour BN, voters are expected to vote for PH seeing that UMNO is being faced with several big issues,” Atory relayed.

After separating from the opposition coalition and going their own way, Atory said that the party’s presence in GE14 would be seen as “a party that is irrelevant to the people.”

“So the people only have BN and PH as their main focus in the upcoming election,” he said.

Dr Wong Chin Huat from Penang Institute meanwhile said that whether PAS’ presence will upset the outcome of the GE14 will boil down to whether voters would be attracted to the party’s basic ideology outlined in Amanat Hadi Awang in 1981.

Dr Wong Chin HuatDr Wong Chin Huat“He wanted and still wants a Malaysia that does not "mengekalkan perlembagaan penjajah, undang-undang kafir and peraturan jahiliah". He wants to restore an imagined pre-colonial Malaysia that was Muslim-dominant and Syariah-based,” Wong highlighted.

Though Wong added that PAS’ relevance in Malaysia’s political scene beyond this upcoming election would be dependent on how much damage PH sustains.

“If it can prove itself to be indispensable to the opposition, it can largely force its world views on others.

“However, if its gamble fails to deny the PH at least one third of parliamentary seats, this would prove that Mahathir's Bersatu has successfully replaced PAS as the face of Malay right-wing party in the opposition coalition, even if it does not dislodge BN.

“That will prove that PAS' support is more due to it being anti-UMNO than it being restorationist,” he pointed out.

PAS Needs To Change To Stay Relevant Beyond GE14

The current political landscape has widely differed from the GE13 in 2013 with new coalitions and splinter parties forming, and UMNO youth exco Dr Fathul Bari Mat Jahya noted that PAS has many challenges that they need to face to remain relevant.

Dr Fathul Bari Mat JahyaDr Fathul Bari Mat Jahya“They should not make religion as a stepping stone in politics and this is a challenge for them to diversify their struggle and not bring in a narrow mindset.

“Religion does not need to be separate from politics but they need to match today’s politics with the religion and not use religion for politics,” he opined while adding that the party’s old ways of scaring people from voting against them by invoking religion would not work with the youths who have studied religion.

He also said that PAS needs to clearly outline how much of their manifesto in the previous election were they able to fulfil so that people would believe in the promises they make in their recent manifesto.

“Once PAS can show how much of their manifesto in the previous election they have managed to fulfil, only then they can talk about a new manifesto for this upcoming election,” he said.

However, Fathul opined that Malaysians are sometimes easily influenced by sentiment because of the hope that political parties give to the people even though the commitment might not be there.

“But it’s not always about hope. Instead, it takes both hope and commitment to fulfil the promises that have been given to the people in the manifesto.

“People should not be influenced by promises being made now if they have not been fulfilled in the previous election,” he reminded.

“Politics today gives hope without commitment and it is this kind of politics that will ruin the country and its people. “