THESE days, PAS hardliner Nasruddin Hassan comes across as brash and cocky.
He is tickled that so many in the Opposition are falling over themselves to woo the Islamist party, believing that PAS will snare many parliamentary seats and be enthroned the kingmaker in GE14.
He is quick to needle his former political allies, DAP and PKR, forgetting that it was that partnership that gave him and many others in PAS access to non-Malay votes.
To know how brittle Nasruddin’s boasts are, just take a drive up to Temerloh in Pahang, the constituency where the firebrand has been MP since 2013.
Like the new seats on the West coast of the Peninsula that PAS won in the 2013, Temerloh was won on the back of solid support from non-Muslim voters, which it always had a problem courting.
Combined with the fact that it will contest in three-cornered fights against its former allies and traditional nemesis Umno, PAS’ ambition of being the kingmaker looks like a bad mix of hubris and day-dreaming.
PAS’ Nasrudin won Temerloh in the 13th general election four years ago after a hard-fought battle with its highly regarded incumbent Saifuddin Abdullah, who was then with BN’s Umno.
Nasrudin won with a thin 1,070 vote majority, largely due to the constituency’s Chinese and Indian communities who respectively make up 24% and 9% of the electorate.
“In all the Chinese polling districts, PAS won almost 95% of the Chinese votes,” said Ahmad Tarmizi Ismail, former senior PAS activist in Temerloh who has now joined Amanah.
The same trend occurred in PAS’ three other state seats Kuala Semantan, Tanjung Lumpur and Beserah, said Tarmizi – they were won on the back of non-Muslim voters who make up between 27% and 20% of the electorate.
Umno and BN on the other hand captured between 55% and 60% of the Malay votes in the two constituencies.
PAS plans to contest in 100 parliamentary seats all over the country against PH parties (Bersatu, Amanah, DAP and PKR) and BN. It will also defend the constituencies it now holds against both the PH and BN.
Ahmad Tarmizi said if the previous voting trend was maintained, non-Muslim votes will go to the Opposition.
The fight over Malay votes will now be split into three between BN, PAS and PH.
Historically, contests between BN and more than one opposition party end up benefitting the ruling coalition as votes for the opposition are split.
PAS’ strength in Temerloh is expected to come from its 4,000 card-carrying members in the constituency.
But the ordinary PAS member is getting turned off by what they see as the party leadership’s increasingly cordial relations with Umno, said Ahmad Tarmizi.
After PAS’ ties soured with PKR and DAP in 2015, its president Abdul Hadi Awang shared the stage with Umno president Najib Razak in two very public functions ostensibly in the name of Muslim unity.
In his speech at the PAS assembly in April, Hadi even thanked Putrajaya for its support in the contentious parliamentary bill dubbed RUU355 to enhance punishments for Shariah offences.
But even if all PAS members in Temerloh vote for Nasruddin, he will not be able to defend this seat because any PAS candidate will be hard-pressed to obtain even 10% support from the non-Muslim electorate.
In addition to severing ties with PKR and DAP, PAS politicians like Nasruddin have spooked the non-Muslim community with their attacks on Christians in Malaysia.
Then, there is the small issue of Nasruddin’s charm, or rather the lack of it.
Personality and service
Candidate personality and track record are also important factors among Temerloh residents and Nasrudin leaves much to be desired in these areas.
Nasrudin, who is also PAS information chief, delivers religious talks in a mosque near Batu Satu once a week, but other than that, residents don’t see much of him.
Religious teacher Ibrahim Ahmad remembers Nasruddin visiting villages in Desa Murni in July 2016 where about 120 houses had their roofs blown off during a storm.
“One of my relatives said he just walked by the house but did not go in when they invited him in. That was not very friendly for a wakil rakyat,” said Ibrahim.
Another resident Samsurizal Mohd Shah, who sells children’s clothes near the town’s esplanade, said in a contest between Nasrudin and local Umno big wig Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin, he believes residents could go with the Umno man.
“Nasrudin and Mohd Sharkar have helped the people of Temerloh but I believe Mohd Sharkar has the edge,” he said.
Nasrudin did not respond to calls and requests for comment.
Mohd Sharkar, who is Lancang state assemblyperson, is widely tipped to be fielded as BN’s candidate for the Temerloh parliamentary seat in the 14th GE.
Temerloh is made up of the Mentakab, Lancang and Kuala Semantan state constituencies.
Mohd Sharkar has represented Lancang since 2004 and has channelled much aid from the BN Pahang government to Temerloh.
This includes spending RM24 million to repair 3,000 village houses all over Temerloh that were damaged by floods and storms.
“We’ve given out millions in aid for schools, suraus, mosques and religious seminaries. We’ve provided state-funded scholarships and aid for the disabled and the infirmed,” said Mohd Sharkar, an ally of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mohd Sharkar said BN also plans to build five PR1MA (1Malaysia Housing Schemes) and Affordable Home Schemes in Temerloh for first time house buyers.
“We will take back Temerloh based on the number of our supporters, our service record and our future plans,” he said.
Although Pakatan Harapan believe that the high living costs will create dissatisfaction among voters and drive them away from BN, Mohd Sharkar argued that the ruling coalition’s ability to deliver will carry the day against any Opposition party,
“I think voters can distinguish between our track record and the Opposition’s promises. Prices have gone up but I don’t see the Opposition guaranteeing that prices will go down if they are elected, ” he said.
When he speaks about the opposition, he is also talking about PAS.
Political pundits and pollsters believe that it will be a miracle for Nasruddin to retain his seat without the all important non-Malay vote bank.
It will be the same in a clutch of other parliamentary seats the Islamist party snared in 2013. Simply put, membership in the Pakatan Rakyat came with privileges – the support of Chinese and Indian voters who were traditionally wary of PAS.
By severing ties with PKR and DAP, those privileges will most certainly be withdrawn. In Temerloh, Nasruddin’s bluster may be put to rest.