Home News Featured News The unexpected rise of Islamists as kingmakers in Malaysia

The unexpected rise of Islamists as kingmakers in Malaysia




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Indonesia saw the rise of Islamists who used a slipup by an otherwise popular political figure allied to President Joko Widodo or Jokowi to galvanise support among in the vastly Muslim populated country.

This caused some Australian media to play the cards of insecurity, placing Indonesia on a short list of nations where extremism is on the rise.

The Aussie publication altogether said Indonesia was on a potential no-go destination for tourists list due to heightened security risks.

Since the Ahok incident in Indonesia, there was a calm in the region, until Malaysia witnessed its own Islamic resurgence after the May 9 defeat of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

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The coalition headed by Najib Razak was seconded by the Party Islam Se-Malaysia or PAS, which broke off from almost two decades of alliance with the opposition. But the BN defeat has strengthened the PAS, instead of burying it along with the Umno.

While most analysts sent the PAS to the dustbin of history, saying it will lose out in the role of the third force against the Barisan and the Pakatan Harapan, the Islamists surprised everyone.

True it is the Islamists were the third force, contesting under the Gagasan Sejahtera, a conservatism movement uniting all those who believe Islam should be the dominant force in Malaysian politics.

It won enough seats to have a strong posture in the August Parliament of Malaysia, where various fractions are still juggling for influence in the Pakatan government.

The PAS won 18 seats, mostly in the Malay belt of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.

It garnered 2 million votes which represent 17% of the number of votes cast on that historic day.

The PAS is headed by Hadi Awang, who is not given much credit by his detractors but is actually a fine politician.

Hadi took the gambit to give tacit support to Najib Razak despite the amount of evidence against the latter in the 1MDB affair in particular.

He pressed on with another bold move, that of pitting his party against both the Umno and the Pakatan in various seats across the country. PAS contested in 158 seats, a feat it never achieved before, albeit it is claimed most of the money it spent came from dubious sources, that is from Najib Razak and the 1MDB.

The gambit paid-off, Today the 18 PAS MP’s could eventually play the role of Kingmaker!

With the Pakatan Harapan shaky – hit by the sudden resignation of Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter Nurul Izzah from both party and government posts this week – there is definitely something fishy.

The ongoing fight between Minister of Economy Azmin Ali (a former blue-eyed boy of the Anwar Ibrahim faction) and whistleblower Rafizi Ramli does not make the PKR look good.

The infighting and the instability within the PKR prompted Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to state he does not know what is wrong with Anwar’s party. Azmin Ali is now said to be close to the Mahathir camp in Parliament.

However, it is certain the PKR is not buying Dr Mahathir’s leniency regardng Umno MP’s leapfrogging into his party, the Bersatu Party.

Bersatu won 13 seats in the May elections, but it has the full support of the Warisan in Sabah. The Sabah party won 8 Parliamentary seats. But with the Umno MP’s now flocking to the Bersatu, it is causing an imbalance in the Pakatan.

Nurul Izzah believes the Bersatu’s move (thus Dr Mahathir’s) to allow Umno defectors in his party is a betrayal of the people’s wish.

The Umno in its totality gave blind support to Najib Razak. According to PKR insiders, the Umno MP’s joining the Pakatan is not acceptable. The wave of discontent, which could turn to dissent, might hit the Mahathir regime soon.

Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang said the ex-Umno MP’s must admit to abetting the 1MDB scandal before they are allowed in the Pakatan Haparan circle.

While this was playing out, a thicker cloud hangs over Malaysia’s politics. A meeting between Dr Mahathir and two PAS MP’s has shattered the Islamists.

The party leaders are at odds, in what could turn out to be a master plan by Dr Mahathir to destabilise the Islamists who are tipped to support Anwar Ibrahim in an eventual leadership bid in Putrajaya.

Dividing the PAS and causing confusion in their midst would shake their confidence, but with Hadi Awang firmly in control of the party’s base and leadership, Dr Mahathir may be in for a major surprise,

He has silently placed his party in a strategic position.

Prior to the May 9 elections, Hadi is said to have negotiated a deal with the Umno-Barisan of Najib Razak. Put an Islamic law amendment bill to vote before the elections and the PAS will join the alliance with four ministerial posts guaranteed.

Najib played Hadi out. He did all he could to delay the final vote in Parliament, in a volte-face that Hadi could not tolerate. However, Hadi bit the bullet and went into the elections is yet another strategic move, that is playing the third force card instead of being seen in alliance with the Umno.

This paid off for the Islamists and with their comfortable number of MP’s they might play the card of Kingmaker by offering their support to Anwar – most likely – than to Dr Mahathir – in the less likely event – and change the political landscape in Malaysia.

In the numbers game, Anwar has the tacit support of the Amanah and the DAP and with his party’s lead role in Pakatan, he is not troubled by Dr Mahathir’s move.

That is because the old man risks finding himself surrounded by Umno betrayers who supported Najib in the 1MDB scandal and that will not look good on Dr M at all.

After the fracas caused by the Ahok scandal in Indonesia, the rise of the Islamists is now confirmed in Malaysia.

But will Dr M play the cards to the extent of risking a sudden downfall since it will be almost impossible for him to garner a majority in the Parliament in the event he postures himself against Anwar?

One week is a long time in politics, and since May 9, Malaysia had many long weeks but the high noon showdown within the Pakatan is yet to materialise!

Send in your scoop to news@theindependent.sg 

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