BY giving up the priced Titiwangsa parliamentary seat to Bersatu, Amanah helped break the deadlock in Pakatan Harapan’s seat negotiations ahead of the opposition coalition’s convention last Sunday.
It was a tough call for Amanah, the smallest party in the four-party opposition coalition, as it had done considerable work in the area and fancied its chances in Titiwangsa.
This decision also means that Amanah will not have a presence in the Federal Territory.
The gesture earned the party the gratitude of coalition chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the convention when he openly thanked the PAS splinter party for being “magnanimous” and singled it out as the key to the success of the seat negotiations.
“After taking every party’s interest into account, including PKR’s willingness to hand over the Lumut federal seat to Amanah, we agreed to let go Titiwangsa,” said Khalid, who is Shah Alam MP.
Amanah was given 27 federal seats in the peninsula to contest in the next elections. Bersatu has 52, PKR 51 and DAP 35.
The seat negotiations were widely known to have been difficult.
Talk has it that Federal Territories Amanah chief Dr Mohamad Hatta Ramli resigned as party election director, but the matter could not be confirmed.
The lack of seats, namely in Johor, also upset the state party leadership in the southern state.
Johor Amanah delegates were ordered to boycott the convention after Amanah was given only two federal seats after asking for five. The state has 56 federal seats.
But to analysts, even though Amanah has been given the least seats, the party has shown that it has an effective negotiation team at the seat talks.
This was because Amanah secured the right to contest the Temerloh parliamentary seat in Pahang that was also eyed by Bersatu and PKR. The seat is held by PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan.
“Amanah got Temerloh, even though PKR’s Saifuddin Abdullah was a strong candidate for the seat.
“This showed that Amanah has good negotiators, and also its colleagues were willing to give and take,” said Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s political analyst Dr Mazlan Ali.
Saifuddin, who is also PH secretary-general, was Temerloh MP from 2008 to 2013 when he was still in Umno. He lost to Nasruddin in the last polls by a slim majority of 1,070 votes.
The former deputy higher education minister joined PKR in 2015 after disagreeing over Putrajaya’s handling of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal.
Khalid said Amanah was given Temerloh because the arrangement was to have the party contest in PAS seats, although PKR and Bersatu were also interested in the seat.
Amanah is a PAS splinter party set up by former progressive PAS leaders after the Islamist party severed ties with DAP, ending the former opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat.
Khalid said the idea from the start was to have Amanah challenge PAS, while Bersatu took on Umno in the seats held by the Barisan Nasional lynchpin party.
PKR and DAP would defend the seats they won in the last general election, he said.
“It was this agreement that caused Amanah to let go of Titiwangsa, which was won by BN’s Umno candidate in the last polls,” Khalid said.
The plan was then tweaked as the negotiations went along, when Amanah suggested that each party take 25% from the total number of seats with a plus or minus of 5%.
“The basis was each party takes 33 seats. PKR and Bersatu took about 50 seats each.
“DAP maintained all its current seats and Amanah went with a minus 5%,” Khalid said.
Mazlan said from his observations since early last year, Amanah could only contest 25 to 35 seats.
Strategically, it would not be right for the party to contest more than 30 federal seats in the peninsula, he said.
“To me, 27 seats are just right for Amanah. It is the ideal number for a young party that has different characteristics from Bersatu, an Umno splinter party,” he said.
But Mazlan said it would have been good for Amanah to get one Federal Territory seat, and one or two more parliamentary seats in Johor.
“Amanah has substantial influence in both locations.
“Although the decision has been made with Amanah’s negotiators agreeing to the arrangement, it can still be discussed further for fine-tuning.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT