DESPITE being snubbed twice by Umno Kelantan leaders, many grassroots leaders in PAS remain hopeful that an alliance between the two parties will be realised before the next general election.
Last week, a meeting between Umno president Najib Razak and top party leaders from Kelantan resulted in the decision that Umno would try to wrest control of the state from PAS.
According to a party source, Najib had attempted to sell the the leaders the idea of a pact with PAS, in which the Islamist party, in return for other favours, would be allowed to retain power in the state it had controlled over the last five elections.
However, Najib had failed to persuade the other Umno leaders to accept the plan. Sources say it was the second time Najib had attempted to promote such a pact.
“Why would we work with PAS, especially with now being the best time for us to defeat the PAS government in Kelantan?” the source told The Malaysian Insight.
In his opening speech at the Umno general assembly yesterday, Najib’s flippant comments about PAS were starkly different from last year, when he waxed lyrical about the Islamist party’s common struggle with Umno.
“Our stand is very clear, which is that our relationship with them is based on the interest of Muslims, even though our political stand is different,” Najib said yesterday.
A matter of survival
PAS was once with Umno in the same coalition, but the two have been political enemies since 1977, when a crisis involving the Islamist party’s menteri besar in Kelantan led to riots and emergency rule, during which Barisan Nasional took over the state government.
While PAS leaders say the party can never work with Umno because of the history, there is also the belief that a pact between the two rivals is necessary as a matter of survival.
At the ongoing Umno general assembly at the Putra World Trade Centre, a large exhibition right at the entrance ridicules and spells out the shortcomings of Pakatan Harapan, which is tagged as DAP-led. Television screens show, on a loop, a video of Umno information chief Annuar Musa talking about the common struggle of Umno and PAS.
Former Selangor PAS secretary Norman Taha said there were no longer obstacles in the way of a political pact between PAS and Umno.
“Now that the ‘parasites’ have left (PAS), I am confident that cooperation between Umno and PAS will become a reality because our foundation is the same, which is to fight for the Malays and Islam,” said Norman, disparaging a progressive faction in PAS that had consistently opposed the idea of cooperation with Umno.
Norman was sacked from PAS in 2013 for being part of a pro-Umno group. After the party split in 2015, which resulted in the spin-off Amanah, Norman rejoined PAS.
Norman said he was confident that cooperation with Umno was imminent as those who were opposed to it had left PAS, while the grassroots leaders and members of Umno were loyal and would comply with their leaders’ decisions.
“We have to understand, this is a sensitive issue and it needs to be done carefully. The best thing is not to talk about it in the open, but to just keep working at it,” said Norman on the sidelines of the Umno general assembly.
Annuar had earlier announced that the Umno Supreme Council had agreed to give Najib its full mandate to conduct discussions with PAS on creating a political pact ahead of the 14th general election which must be called before August.
Political observer and veteran journalist Zainal Epi said that he believed efforts to unite both parties would not be easily stifled, despite high-profile Umno leaders such as Tengku Razaleigh Tengku Hamzah in Kelanatn turning down the suggestion of a pact in Kelantan.
He said with Dr Mahathir Mohamad leading PH, both Najib and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang were left with little choice but to join forces in order to secure a victory in the coming polls.
“This is for their individual survival, Najib or Hadi’s,” he told The Malaysian Insight.