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PAS-Umno unity must remain dead if PAS is to live

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 25, 2009


JUNE 24 — The proposal to form a so-called unity government between PAS and Umno finally finds its rightful place — in a dustbin. Nothing guarantees any PAS member from rummaging through the trash to rejuvenate the idea however. If the dream still lingers, I am here to offer a dire possibility. If PAS-Umno unity comes true, PAS may break up as internal and external forces pull the political party in different directions.

Why is it a possibility?

PAS-Umno unity will significantly affect the status quo balance of power. It will grant BN a proper majority in Perak. Selangor will suffer from a hung assembly. Other notable changes include the weakening of the opposition in many states and the absence of one in Perlis.

In sum, PAS-Umno unity will be a major setback for Pakatan Rakyat.

That scenario has one caveat: it assumes all PAS members will remain united if the party defects from Pakatan Rakyat to work with Umno. Given the kind of rift caused by the PAS-Umno unity talks, that is a big assumption.

It is not every day one can expect Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat as the leader of PAS to tell off one of his prominent party members — Nasharuddin Mat Isa — to quit the party and join Umno after Nasharuddin spoke warmly of the possibility of PAS-Umno unity.

Later, 10 PAS members of Parliament went out to support Nik Aziz and to oppose any pro-Umno activity within PAS.

The action of the 10 MPs is particularly revealing. For the more liberal members of PAS, or the Erdogans as they have come to be known, they have every incentive to not associate themselves with a pro-Umno PAS. Many of the Erdogans contested in areas where voters come from diverse backgrounds. These Erdogans understand that they won on March 8, 2009 because they appealed to inclusive politics. They campaigned by convincing voters that PAS is for all and not just for the Muslims or the Malays, i.e. exclusive politics.

To have PAS working in concert with Umno — as Onn Yeoh writes in The Edge — amounts to betrayal of these voters. The very notion of unity between PAS and Umno is based on the idea of exclusive politics, running contrary to the kind of campaign the Erdogans ran in the last general election. By the next election if the Erdogans are still part of a pro-Umno PAS, these voters will not vote for the Erdogans. Hence, the future holds very little prospect for the Erdogans.

These Erdogans can of course undergo a rebranding exercise to adjust to exclusive-based politics that a PAS-Umno coalition is expected to play. Notwithstanding the very appropriate accusation of hypocrisy that may come, these Erdogans will face stiff competition from the real conservatives within PAS as all compete for smaller pool of seats any exclusivist politician can expect to win. Furthermore, it is unrealistic to expect Umno to surrender their seats to PAS in order to accommodate the Erdogans-turned-conservatives.

If PAS-Umno unity happens, the only way for the Erdogans to secure their future is for them to demonstrate their commitment to inclusive politics and, inevitably, Pakatan Rakyat. This may translate into having the Erdogans or more generally the pro-Pakatan Rakyat members of PAS to either eject pro-Umno members out of PAS, leave PAS in favour of PKR or even form a new party that DAP and PKR can work together under the banner of Pakatan Rakyat. In any case, the result will leave PAS utterly broken.

Only through this can they hope to secure their political future. The existing seat distribution formula within Pakatan Rakyat can continue to be used to accommodate these Erdogans, as long as they remain loyal to the coalition even as other PAS members finds itself in cahoots with Umno.

For DAP and PKR, the stake is simply too high that both parties cannot allow PAS to defect so easily. It will in the best interest of PKR and DAP to embolden the Erdogans to mount a revolt against any movement towards PAS-Umno unity, possibly leading to a breakup as described earlier.

The breaking up of PAS will limit any gain made by Umno. It may prevent Selangor — the jewel of crown — from experiencing a hung assembly. If Pakatan Rakyat is lucky, the manoeuvre can even prevent BN from gaining the coveted two-third majority in Parliament.

For PKR especially, there is an extra motivation to break PAS apart in case PAS-Umno unity becomes a reality. PKR may enjoy an influx of high-quality members from PAS, especially if the pro-Pakatan Rakyat members of PAS decide to leave the party and not form a new party. PKR may need high-calibre individuals to strengthen its ranks and the Erdogan MPs do just that, if ever the Erdogans have a reason to part from PAS.

But, at the end of the day, the most preferable solution for DAP and PKR is to have PAS as a committed member of Pakatan Rakyat. Both DAP and PKR will want work to keep PAS within the young three-party coalition to build on the existing momentum. As we have seen, this is exactly the path taken by DAP and PKR.

As long as the most preferred option works, there is no need to resort to the second most preferred option. This is something everybody who wishes to see a strong PAS must understand.

Hafiz Noor Shams explains why he voted for Dr Lo’lo’ Mohd Ghazali of PAS as his MP at

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