Najib Tun Razak, the leader of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) who is de-facto the Prime Minister of Malaysia, is assured of at least three elements in the run-up to the 14th general elections in Malaysia. And they are in the following order, the best he can get in the present case scenario.
First of all, he has the tacit support of the Islamist Party Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).
As a matter of fact, the leader of the nation’s most prominent Islamist party has managed to upend the opposition’s march to victory in the next election.
As a matter of fact, PAS party leader, Hadi Awang took the most obvious route that could fulfil his dreams of seeing the Hudud – or the Islamic laws – implemented in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu.
The Hudud Factor
Not a savvy politician on the national scene, as he is rather seen as a ‘Jaguh Kampung’ or a local hero within the Malay heartland, Hadi applied the principle of divide and rule within the opposition group to ensure that the future would belong to him and to the PAS.
And the future does belong to Hadi, to the PAS and to the Hudud if he succeeds in tieing up the Malaysian Prime Minister in his Hudud agenda.
For now, it appears Najib is a sure bet in the support for the Hudud in the Parliament and recent statements by the Malaysian PM indicated the government has now taken over Hadi’s personal bill and turned it into a government bill that would be put to vote soon.
Whether it is put to vote before or after the GE14 is another story, but it is worth noting that it will be in Najib’s interest to get the Hudud voted as soon as possible, or he risk losing the support from the PAS.
In the present Parliament, the Umno has a large number of Muslim MP’s, and it might need this powerful force behind it to push the Hudud into law.
There is no guarantee that Najib will win the same number of Muslim MP’s on his side in the elections. This may then pose a problem to the Umno-PAS alliance, which might find itself running a minority government at worst.
Nevertheless, Najib is still weighing his options on the Hudud.
He will have to explain to skeptical Umno members who might flock to the newly formed party by former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad, the Bersatu or Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia due to the enforcement of the Hudud.
It is all about the political brinkmanship of the Malay leaders of the PAS and the Umno.
To recall, the Malaysian state of Kelantan has long harboured the idea of implementing the traditional set of Islamic laws known as Hudud.
Under former PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat, there was no possibility for the party to work with the Umno to promote the Hudud.
The party was more or less loyal to the Pakatan Raykat coalition, and would not have jeopardised its role in the opposition.
Once Nik Aziz passed on and the leadership of the party changed hands into those who are more lenient towards the Umno, things changed dramatically.
But it was still a game of cat and mouse between the two leaders, Najib and Hadi Awang, who continued to play around the cheese instead of dipping their teeth into it right away. The problem was, and still is, the potential trappings of an Umno support on the Hudud bill.
PAS To Kowtow To UMNO
But the game is not over. It still a contrived action involving constant pursuit, near captures, and repeated escapes from both the PAS and Umno.
But in 2016, had the PAS rejected Umno’s support for the Hudud in Parliament, it would have been called a betrayer of the Muslims by many.
Now that it has picked up the baton, Umno is the one that risked being called the betrayer of the Muslims if it did not allow the bill to pass through the Parliament.
This game has settled, but the end-game is still being played in the corridors of power.
Does Najib want the PAS to have full control over its future, or would the Umno want the PAS to be subservient to the Umno’s agenda?
Handing the PAS a fully voted, adopted and crafted into ACT Hudud Bill will mean the Umno would have no power over the PAS. Thus, it once again appears that Najib would want the bill to be read but before it is voted, he would call for the GE14 with PAS in tow.
The PAS will have no choice but to go along Umno’s agenda and support Najib in the elections in a bid to get the Hudud bill passed in the next Parliament.
And this is the very second thing that Najib can definitely expect. That is getting the PAS to finally accept to follow Umno in the elections before the Hudud is voted.
The third and final element that Najib is fully assured of, is that he will fight the elections without the force represented by Anwar Ibrahim, but which is now replaced by the powerful presence of Tun Mahathir in the opposition.
By all means, these three elements are the most important ones to look for in 2017 as they can drastically change the Malaysian political landscape with the next GE on the horizon.