DESPITE pulling in almost 200,000 supporters over the past two days, PAS’s massive rally in Kuala Terengganu could not deliver a message that would resonate with non-Muslims and Muslims who are not members.
Its sheer size was arguably the rally’s only success, proving once again that the 66-year-old Islamist party is the country’s second largest party by membership.
But the Fastaqim 2.0, held over two days at Pantai Tok Jembal, Kuala Nerus, in Terengganu, failed to deliver on two counts.
First, a much-hyped announcement that a few national-level figures would join the party fizzled out.
Second, Fastaqim 2.0 also did not provide an inspiring message or platform that can give PAS a wow factor and set it apart from either the ruling Barisan Nasional or opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan.
Where BN talks about its 60-year track record and stability, and PH touts its reform agenda, PAS could only go back to its Islamist message of the 1980s of wanting to implement Islam and the shariah penal code (hudud).
The party mentioned its Pelan Induk Negara Sejahtera (Harmonious State blueprint) but gave little in terms of the details of what policies it plans to pursue.
“This rally did not really show off PAS’ ability to lead a third coalition that can challenge BN or Harapan,” said political analyst Hisomuddin Bakar.
“It was more to show off its machinery and its ability to mobilise its thousands of members to do whatever the leadership tells them.”
No one doubts PAS’ machinery and its hardcore support base as it is the country’s second largest party in terms of membership, which now total more than 880,000.
Fastaqim 2.0’s organisers had said the rally was to also to launch a third political bloc, Gagasan Sejahtera Rakyat (Gagasan), and make it a true contender for federal power like Harapan and BN.
But there was no real wow factor that would make Gagasan stand out, says Hisommudin of the think tank Ilham Centre.
Instead, it went back to its old platform of wanting to establish its own brand of Islamic rule and that it will oppose any form of vice such as the recently cancelled Better Beer Festival.
This platform was the same it applied in the 1980s and early 1990s with little success in terms of getting wide public support.
But this time, PAS has blended its call “to establish an Islamic nation” with the idea that Malay Muslims were under siege even in their own country.
In his rally speech, PAS information chief and Fastaqim 2.0 director Nasrudin Hassan said opposition to its RUU355 private members bill was proof that “Islam was being sidelined”.
RUU355 is a private member’s bill brought by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang to enhance punishments for shariah offences.
This treatment of Muslims Nasrudin hoped would trigger a Muslim-centred green-wave that will propel PAS to power in the 14th general election.
Hisomuddin said by evoking a siege mentality, PAS aimed to get more votes from Muslims who had in the past supported Umno but who are now turned off by the Malay party’s excesses and allegations of corruption.
“The message is PAS is also a Malay-Muslim party that will look after their rights and interests. PAS has to pull away Malay support from BN and PH in GE14 to make up for the loss in support from non-Muslims.”
Even if it is not a match to PH’s of policy offerings, the fastaqim will be seen as a challenge to PH’s ability to mobilise, says Hisomuddin. This is because PH has its own mega rally on 14 October in Petaling Jaya that is supposed to cap off its “Love Malaysia, End Kleptocracy” roadshow.
“People will be watching if PH, with its four parties, can muster more people for that than PAS’s fastaqim. If PH fails to bring a big crowd, it will effect the public’s perception of PH.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT