Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) has said it would hold off a decision to sever ties with former opposition ally Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
Despite a unanimous call to ditch political cooperation with PKR, the syura (consultative) council), the party’s top decision-making body, announced that it would meet later to discuss the issue.
“After the congress, with the grace of God, we will interpret our political cooperation based on Islam,” said council secretary Nik Mohd Zawawi Salleh. He added that the meeting would be held “as soon as possible”.
After Malaysia’s most successful opposition coalition collapsed in 2015, former allies PAS and PKR continued to maintain a working relationship in Selangor. PAS jointly runs Malaysia’s richest state alongside PKR and its other former ally, the Chinese-led Democratic Action Party (DAP). But PAS did not join the new alliance, Pakatan Harapan, comprising PKR, DAP, Parti Amanah Negara and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
Relations soured further in the past year, escalating into a war of words between PAS and PKR leaders. PAS members urged their leaders to cut ties with PKR.
But the repercussions of such a move may prove too detrimental for PAS. Ending political ties with PKR means PAS leaders will have to quit their roles in the Selangor state government. Putting off the decision would allow PAS to keep its options open over who it wants to join forces with.
PAS, with its ambitious goal of winning 40 parliamentary seats and five states, appears confident that it can negotiate power-sharing, should any one bloc fail to gain a majority at the next election, expected to be called this year.
“God willing, we’ll be the kingmakers, at the very least a party that will determine the direction of the government, or even become the government,” said Mr Nik Zawawi.
This year’s annual congress lacked the fire of previous years, with party president Abdul Hadi Awang warning leaders at a closed-door briefing last Friday to refrain from making comments harmful to PAS.
Delegates spent hours suggesting ways to win support as PAS gears up for the next election, but struggled when it came to reconciling the leadership’s budding ties with ruling party Umno, which it will face at the ballot box.
“PAS and Umno are like the sky and earth,” said a Sabah delegate.
Party strategist Zuhdi Marzuki sought to paint the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) as the lesser evil, saying: “Harapan is worse than BN. If BN’s core is Umno, then Harapan’s core is DAP.”
PAS left the alliance after falling out with DAP, mainly because it insisted on introducing tougher punishments by syariah courts.
Pegging DAP as anti-Islam, PAS leaders said they are open to working with non-Muslims, so long as they do not object to its Islamic agenda. PAS said its friendship with long-time foe Umno relates to common goals tied to Islam.