KUALA LUMPUR — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has dismissed the need to bring PAS into a cohesive Opposition pact, claiming his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia could even defeat the Islamist party in multi-cornered fights.

In remarks that are set to undermine PPBM president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s continued efforts to woo the Islamist party, the former prime minister also rejected the likelihood of an electoral pact that would include Pakatan Harapan parties and PAS.

Dr Mahathir then expressed confidence that the electoral pact encompassing Pakatan Harapan and his PPBM was sufficient to take on the ruling Barisan Nasional.

“We are prepared for a three-cornered fight. We have to take on PAS. We think that in most instances we can actually beat PAS and the BN as well,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying in an interview with Singaporean newspaper The Sunday Times.

The PPBM chairman acknowledged, however, that PAS was influential enough to split the Opposition vote to BN’s advantage.

Despite his dismissal of the Islamist party, Dr Mahathir appeared to still call for PAS to side with the other federal Opposition parties, saying that refusing to support the pact was akin to helping BN win the general election.

He then told feuding Opposition parties to set aside their differences in order to pool their resources to take on the ruling coalition.

“In order to do that, you must forget some of your pet projects and pet struggles,” he said.

A recent PKR survey showed that one possible outcome of keeping PAS outside the Pakatan Harapan cooperation was a split Opposition vote that may give BN a supermajority in Parliament after the next general election.

Muhyiddin had, during the launch of PPBM last week, mooted a larger Opposition pact called Barisan Rakyat that would include Pakatan Harapan parties, PPBM and PAS.

The proposal is stymied by the unresolved disputes between DAP and PAS that led to the breakup of the previous Pakatan Rakyat pact as well as animosity between the Islamist party and Amanah that was formed by former PAS leaders and members.

MEANWHILE, according to Malaysiakini:

Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad has confirmed that time is up for Islamist party PAS on negotiations on an opposition electoral pact.

“We have made a decision, the time is up and we will decide in a Bersatu supreme council meeting soon,” said Mahathir in an event organised by the Titiwangsa and Seputeh Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) divisions in Ampang last night.

The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) chairperson’s confirmation was in response to Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) lecturer Maszlee Malik who had asked him on the cut-off time with regard to negotiations between PAS and Bersatu as well as the latter’s intention to join Pakatan Harapan.

Maszlee was acting as the moderator during the “hard talk” session between Mahathir and Amanah leader Husam Musa.

Mahathir however reiterated that Bersatu joining Harapan was not a matter of probability, but a matter that has been decided – the Umno splinter party will ultimately join Harapan.

Maszlee had earlier questioned the delay over Bersatu joining Harapan, but Mahathir explained that this was because there was at least an understanding, for all parties that were against BN to unite under one coalition.

“If possible, we want all five parties to be in one coalition. But sadly, PAS has a stance which has made it difficult in the unification process,” he said, citing PAS which had insisted that it would not be in a coalition together with DAP and Amanah.

Convincing PAS a challenge

Bersatu, Mahathir further explained, was trying to convince PAS to join the opposition coalition to increase their chances of winning in the next general election.

But despite several discussions, Mahathir lamented how they have yet to come to an agreement.

Stating that discussions had only been held between representatives from the “slightly lower level of the PAS leadership”, Mahathir revealed that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang had never participated in any of the discussions.

“Their representatives, (PAS deputy president) Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man and (PAS election director) Mustafa Ali did not reject and at the same time did not accept (the suggestions).”

This, he said, had placed Bersatu in a spot as it had given the Islamist party time for it to contemplate Bersatu’s views and conditions and yet, no answer was forthcoming.

“But if PAS doesn’t want to join Harapan, Bersatu will (still) join Harapan,” Mahathir said, to applause from the audience.

Harapan and Bersatu, in December last year, officially agreed to an electoral pact to ensure straight fights against BN in the coming general election.

The two entities had agreed to form an opposition coalition to facilitate the formation of a new government should they win the 14th general election.

Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin had then said that the party was giving itself until this year to negotiate with PAS on an broad opposition electoral pact.

This, he had said, was because some time was needed for more engagement before Bersatu decides to close its door to PAS.

‘Understand PAS’ reasons’

Meanwhile, Husam said it was important to understand the reason behind PAS’ reluctance to join the opposition coalition.

“If we don’t understand why PAS is like that, we will be dragged by PAS until the date of the election and yet will still be unable to agree,” he said.

Citing a purported strategic paper by PAS academicians which the Salor assemblyperson claimed was presented in a syura council meeting, Husam said PAS’ most strategic position was to be in three-cornered fights.

“As a former PAS member and someone who still contacts some PAS people, PAS thinks as such because it has been ‘tied by Rome’,” he said.

Recalling the history of Islam, Husam explained how Rome would always send its horses to be given to Muslim soldiers before clashes, and some had been satisfied with just receiving them.

“PAS leaders today have big cars, I don’t know where they got the money from,” said Husam in an obvious jibe against them.

The former PAS vice-president believes that PAS was of the opinion that it needed to restrict DAP’s dominance and therefore should break the latter’s dominance, even if it would sacrifice PAS.

“It’s undeniable that there are two camps in PAS – when they want to negotiate with opposition allies to delay them, they will send Tuan Ibrahim and Mustafa as diplomats.

“But the one making the decisions are other leaders,” Husam pointed out.

PAS was once a member of the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat coalition together with DAP and PKR.

The coalition fell apart in 2015 following disagreements between DAP and PAS over the latter’s theocratic goals.

Following this, DAP and PKR formed Harapan together with Amanah – a PAS splinter party.