The PAS muktamar has come to a close, and the political roadmap for the party’s future has been charted.
President Hadi Awang is still in firm control of the party, and with his son now elected the Youth wing leader, his religious agenda has consolidated the forces in the party towards total Islamization.
There has been no change to the party’s direction although there could be changes to its alliance. Everyone in the party, from the parent body to the various wings, has been calling for a break of ties with PKR.
Umno is no longer the main target at the muktamar, a role now taken over by Pakatan Harapan. Even before the assembly started, PAS was already sending signals of goodwill to Umno. Delegates no longer target their firepower at Umno but Pakatan Harapan in a delicate shift in PAS’ inter-party relationships.
PKR has exercised a relatively high degree of self restraint in the face of PAS’ vociferous calls for a break-up, still hoping for some sort of agreement with the Islamist party in tackling the BN.
From the electoral strategy point of view, PKR’s response has been absolutely logical as the party has been persistently clinging to the most favorable solutions possible in an attempt to avert three-cornered fights that will invariably thin out the ballots of any opposition party.
Sure enough Pakatan will enjoy significantly boosted chances over BN if PKR eventually manages to persuade PAS to return to the fold, but this will also mean PAS will now be able to hold on to its strongholds. The question is: do we still want PAS to win this time?
PAS has unapologetically made its political direction crystal clear, that it will go down the way of conservative religionization in disregard of the reality of the country’s cultural diversity. If we allow the party to keep growing in strength, we are like empowering it to make advances with its religious agenda.
Both BN and Pakatan are enjoying better overall approval rates than PAS among the Malaysian electorate. Even if PAS is capable of winning a third of all Malay votes, the party will not go far from here given the fact it will not win the trust of non-Muslim community.
Excluding PAS from Pakatan will inevitably give rise to three-cornered fights detrimental to the opposition camp, but the same will also deal a heavy blow on the Islamist party.
As a matter of fact, PAS will suffer a tremendous setback in the event of multi-cornered fights, and may very likely surrender most of its holds outside east coast states.
The raison d’être of any political party is to win the election and grab the power to advance its political agenda. This aside, there are still other factors that should be taken into account.
For so many years compromises have been made in the course of power wrestling among political parties on both sides of the great divide, allowing conservative religious forces to bank on such situation to prosper, thus intimidating our existing secular system.
From a party whose influences have been largely confined to east coast states for decades, PAS has been able to slowly assume an innegligible and decisive role in national politics. To a certain extent, this has been the outcome of the power wrestling among rival parties that keeps creating opportunities to strengthen the Islamist party.
To boost its winning chances in the next GE, Pakatan–or rather PKR–indeed needs to strike an accord with PAS. But, in the defense of our existing secular system and checking the advances of Islamization in this country, this is not going to be a sensible option anyway.