The South China Morning Post said Malaysia’s biggest Islamist party, the Party Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), is set to be the deciding factor in the country’s next general elections.
The paper said the PAS is trying to present itself as an independent party, not allied to the government coalition of the Barisan Nasional (BN) or to the Pakatan Harapan (Hope Coalition).
It suddenly sees itself as the prize that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s party the Parti Pribumi Bersatu (Bersatu), the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) of PM Najib Razak and the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
Not to mention that the Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) of Anwar Ibrahim is also after the PAS.
The PAS is obviously presenting itself as the independent block but no one is duped to ignore the fact that it is now allied to the Umno, the paper seemed to ask the PAS.
PAS responded by saying that it intends to fight the Umno in the elections.
“We are 100 per cent going to fight Umno in the next general election,” PAS election director Mustafa Ali said.
Mustafa stressed that PAS was committed to being an opposition party and was pursuing talks with Hope Coalition members that aimed to ensure only one opposition candidate stood against the National Front in each constituency.
Some 222 parliamentary and 505 state legislative seats are to be contested.
Kadir Jasin, a Bersatu supreme council member, confirmed talks were ongoing with PAS representatives and said PAS activists appeared keen to work with the Hope Coalition.
Yet a PAS party source said senior leaders such as Abdul Hadi had signalled they wanted to be independent of either coalition.
If so, that could play into the hands of the National Front.
In what many see as an attempt to scupper reconciliation between the PAS and the Hope Coalition, the Umno-owned daily newspaper Utusan Malaysia has recently played up stories of PAS accusing the Democratic Action Party of interfering in Islamic affairs in the island city state of Penang.
“It is in Umno’s interest that PAS remains independent and not part of the [Hope Coalition],” the PAS source said.
This is because historically, the National Front has always prevailed in contests where the opposition vote is split between multiple candidates.
However, Hisomuddin at the Ilham Centre, said multi-candidate contests would not necessarily benefit the National Front.
“Our surveys show that undecided voters or ‘fence sitters’ make up about 40 per cent of the electorate in any constituency.
These voters are interested in coalitions that are Malaysia-centric and are strong enough to form a government.”