AFTER months of mixed signals, PAS will finally state its plans to capture Putrajaya in the 14th general election by leading the country’s second opposition bloc.
This weekend, the country’s second largest party by membership, will hold a gathering dubbed fastaqim 2.0, a rally that is meant to both unite PAS and prove that it is a formidable political player.
PAS leads a bloc called Gagasan Sejahtera Rakyat that rivals Pakatan Harapan (PH), and ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.
But more than the gathering, which PAS hopes to attract 200,000 supporters, will be the announcement from party leaders on two prominent national figures who will be joining the Islamist party.
PAS information chief Nasrudin Hassan said this will be the biggest surprise at the fastaqim.
“Who are those people? It’s not appropriate for me to reveal it right now. Wait until for the highlight of the fastaqim. God willing, these leaders will declare their intention to join us,” he said.
This echoed a similar announcement by Umno two weeks ago when it was rumoured that it will get several lawmakers from the opposition to switch sides to BN.
However, the only switchover was by former Selangor menteri besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who left PKR to re-join Umno.
Analysts and PH leaders doubt that PAS and its coalition can muster enough support from the wider Malaysian public to capture the more than 100 parliamentary seats to form the federal government.
PAS leaders believe that the fastaqim, which translates to “uprising”, is a first step to proving those sceptics wrong.
The rally will also signal whether PAS and Gagasan will cooperate with PH to minimise three-cornered fights – which analysts have said historically benefitted BN.
PAS boasts that the rally will see more than 200,000 supporters converging at Pantai Teluk Jembal, Kuala Terengganu, on Friday and Saturday.
PAS will also officially launch its election machinery at the gathering, said the Temerloh MP.
PAS held its first fastaqim in October 2015 in Kota Baru, Kelantan, just shortly after 18 leaders left to form Amanah. Some 60,000 people turned up at that event.
This year’s gathering will be joined by Gagasan component members Parti Ikatan Malaysia (Ikatan), Berjasa and Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM).
Political analyst Hisomuddin Bakar believes that the gathering will give a clear indication as to PAS’ stand when it comes to PH.
“Presently, there some unresolved issues, as there are certain quarters who are still open to the idea of cooperating with Pakatan Harapan,” said Hisomuddin of the Ilham Centre.
“The talk is that the doors to (PH component member) PKR may be closed, but they’re not locked.”
A high-level retreat in Perak recently gave the green light to PAS grassroots leaders to continue talks with rival opposition parties, PKR and Bersatu.
But PH decided on August 28 to end talks with PAS.
Nasrudin said PAS will contest more than 100 parliamentary seats compared with 66 when it was allied with DAP and PKR in GE13.
“So far, it’s not finalised but the figure can rise above 100 seats and it’s possible to put candidates all over the country.
“Maybe 130 or 140 seats. We shall see how far PAS goes. There is no way to rule a country if your party only contests 60 to 70 seats.”
Nasrudin said the two-day gathering would be akin a “big family day” at the beach for the party’s supporters and sympathisers.
Detrimental to work with Umno
Wong Chin Huat, political scientist with the Penang Institute, said it was “detrimental to PAS” to declare any intention to work with Umno.
“It will drive away the hardcore anti-establishment Malay votes and also confirm Amanah’s and Pakatan Harapan’s allegation that PAS has been bought over by Umno,” he said.
At this weekend’s gathering, Wong believes PAS will announce that it will contest 83, or half of the peninsula’s parliamentary seats.
“The party’s leadership will also likely stress that Muslims are under attack both at home, such as the beer and gay festivals, and globally, by referring to the Rohingya situation.
“The call will be that Muslims must unite to defend Islam and Muslim dominance in Malaysia.”
Wong also believes that the grassroots would be called to come out to vote for PAS “or at the least they must not vote for kafir harbi (non-Muslim infidel) parties and their Muslim collaborators”.
Najib to be ‘indirectly excused’
A strategy might be to accuse DAP or non-Muslims of hypocrisy, said Wong, for rejecting the ban on the beer festival and claiming that is their cultural right, but at the same time object to Act 355 (to amend the shariah court bill), which concerns Muslims.
On the 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal, Prime Minister Najib Razak will likely be “indirectly excused”, Wong said.
“They’ll say the evidence is not conclusive and that we must be wary of foreign intervention.
“The two-day event seems to rival Bersih 4. Many people like to claim that Bersih could not get Malays to turn out after PAS left. I’m curious to see how many they will bring.”
PAS expanded its territories to Kedah in 1999 and Selangor and Perak only in 2008. In three-cornered fights, some of its candidates may even lose deposits, such as in 1986, when 20 candidates lost their deposits.
PAS might stand a better chance in Selangor compared with other states but its hard-line position on the beer fest will likely push some non-Muslim voters to even vote for Umno, Wong said.
Wong believes PAS’ biggest rival is Bersatu.
“I don’t think Bersatu’s real strength is in rural areas, although it is working hard there. Bersatu’s real function basically is to replace PAS as the guarantor of Malay interests within Pakatan Harapan.”