THIRD political blocs in Malaysia’s history have always been small and have had little impact in electoral battles between the ruling Barisan Nasional and the opposition.
Tonight, a new third bloc will be born, along the Kuala Nerus coast in Terengganu, that could shake the status quo.
The Fastaqim 2.0 mega rally by PAS which reaches its climax tonight, may see the Islamist party no longer alone and ready to lead a third political force, Gagasan Sejahtera.
The pact’s coordinator Kamaruzaman Mohamad claims it is not only made of politicians, but groups that share the ideals and aspirations of PAS.
“With many NGOs with us, we expect a renewed momentum that would be advantageous to us in the 14th general election,” he told reporters earlier.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang is expected to announce the Gagasan line-up that will include the smaller Ikatan and Berjasa parties. Multiracial party, Parti Cinta Malaysia, is rumoured to be joining the bloc as well.
PAS, before this, had been part of Pakatan Rakyat, which crumbled when it cut ties with DAP over the hudud or Islamic penal code issue. Pakatan Harapan was later formed without PAS, which lost its progressive leaders to splinter party Amanah that is now part of PH.
Analysts and political observers have said PAS will not stand a chance going it alone as it had won non-Muslim support in the 2013 general election because it had worked with other races by being part of Pakatan Rakyat.
Last night, at the start of the Fastaqim 2.0, more than 100 Malay and Muslim groups endorsed Hadi as leader in a private meeting.
In the 14th general election, PAS is planning to contest in up to 130 Malay-majority seats around the country.
PAS, more than other political party besides Umno, has generations of supporters who were born and bred within its system.
This is visible from the successful way these parties mobilise at each mega gathering they organise.
PAS also has an extensive support system that ensures even the young grow up to become loyal party members.
“PAS has a tadika (kindergarten service) called PASTI with schools and teachers to serve the students. There is also usrah (small group discussions on religion) for those who are working,” said Roslan Hadi, a PAS member from Perak.
“If there was anyone born in the 1980s in a PAS family, the person would now be a leader or at least a PAS youth member,” he added.
The Fastaqim 2.0 event, which began yesterday, has been more of a family carnival than a religious or political event.
Aimed at making a show of strength for PAS, families and children participate in competitions and games that paint a stark contrast to a hardline Islamic image that PAS’ critics in urban areas have painted of the party.
“We come as a family and we are with our big family,” said Zuraini Ani of Kuala Lumpur as she holds her 11-month old baby.
As it enters the time for zohor prayers, there are small groups taking turns to pray under tents. There are also others who pray along the rocky coast and open spaces nearby.
There is no compulsion for those who are working or otherwise to pray.
In these subtle ways, PAS is trying to shed its hardline image and present itself, not as a spoiler, but a worthy opponent to BN and PH.