IT’S a cliché but politics makes strange bedfellows. Who would have thought that Dr Mahathir Mohamad would lead the opposition and reconcile with Anwar Ibrahim? Who would have thought that Najib Razak would still be stuck with mega scandals after eight years in power?
And who would have thought that Hadi Awang, once archenemy of Malay nationalism, would bring Pas closer to Umno? Day by day, PAS leaders are seen busy defending Umno, Najib, and the 1MDB mega scandal.
It is not surprising if PAS would join Barisan Nasional someday. This is not new, of course, because Pas had joined BN in 1973. As a result, in the 1974 general election, it retained Kelantan, and became part of the national BN government. Some of its leaders became ministers and deputy ministers.
However, BN leaders had something up their sleeves. PAS was kicked out four years later. The Islamist party lost Kelantan, and almost everything else. It was a bitter lesson for them, supposedly.
Yet, PAS is now back in the bosom of Umno. If it decides to return to BN, what would be the impact on Malaysia’s political scenario?
What would MCA, Gerakan and MIC say? How are they going to convince voters to support them? After all, they are the ones that have been attacking the DAP by linking the social democratic party with PAS.
What would the BN component parties in Sabah and Sarawak say? Will PBB, SUPP, PRS, SPDP, UPKO, PBS and LDP have a hard time explaining to voters why they are collaborating with Pas?
As far as most non-Muslim voters understand it, PAS wants to impose hudud and establish an Islamic state, regardless of the secular, or at least semi-secular, nature of the Federal Constitution.
The question arises: PAS was once a member of Pakatan Rakyat. How could the DAP work with PAS? What was different then?
The answer lies in the common policy platform. Between 2008 and 2015, PAS agreed to be with the DAP and PKR to fight BN on a common stand. PAS had pledged that it would not bring up the hudud law or the Islamic state. In fact it had its own inclusive agenda of “Negara Berkebajikan” or nation of care/benevolent nation/welfare state.
But now things have changed. Since becoming buddies with Umno, PAS is back playing religious politics. Except this time, it is to defend the Najib administration.
Is it bad if PAS is with BN? Many opposition supporters are uncomfortable with the potential three-cornered fights in the coming elections. Some believe Pakatan Harapan will definitely lose in multi-cornered contests. Such assumption however is still debatable.
It may also mean when PAS joins BN, it could be a Pakatan Harapan’s straight fight with BN. This means BN may do either of these two things: to ask PAS to play a spoiler role by putting candidates in all constituencies where Pakatan Harapan will be contesting, or to have an electoral pact with Pas to ensure straight fights in all seats.
Either way, voters would know by then that there are only two main coalitions. Therefore, it will be less confusing for voters.
It was a good start when Pakatan Harapan announced its leadership structure and applied for a formal coalition with a common logo last month. Even if the Registrar of Societies tries to deny the application, most voters would have known by now the existence of Pakatan Harapan via various forms of the social media.
There are however some snags here and there. In Selangor, for example, the Pakatan Harapan Menteri Besar Azmin Ali has insisted that Pakatan Rakyat, with PAS in it, is still in existence in the state. That’s not good for many voters.
The only thing Malaysians can hope for this time is for the Pakatan Harapan leadership to stay on course, to be more open with each other, and to work towards the same goal.
Perhaps the time has come for all of us to work towards a fairer, more tolerant and progressive Malaysia. It may not be easy but we have to start somewhere.