A FORMER PAS stalwart’s feelings towards his old party reflects the challenges it faces as it tries to position itself as the “kingmaker” of the 14th general election.
Before PAS split from its opposition allies in 2015, PAS stalwart Mohamad Ismail sent five of his seven children to study at the Darul Quran madrassah (seminary) founded by party president Abdul Hadi Awang.
But after the events of 2015, which also saw a wave of high-profile PAS leaders leave the party, Mohamad removed all his children from the madrassah in Marang, Terengganu, and enrolled them in schools in Kuala Lumpur.
“After (the events of 2015), I told myself I will never vote for PAS again,” said Mohamad, who hails from Segambut, Kuala Lumpur.
Mohamad is one of those PAS supporters turned off by the Islamist party’s direction in the past year, including scorning its former allies, DAP and PKR, and tying to cultivate friendly ties with traditional nemesis Umno.
According to a former party official, Dr Abdul Latif Ibrahim, they make up about 30% to 40% of supporters.
For Latif, a former assistant secretary-general of PAS, the loss of support is one of the reasons PAS will fail in its attempts to be “kingmaker” in GE14 by forming a third opposition bloc.
“For me, 30%-40% of PAS members are now confused about the party’s direction, especially after it attempted to cultivate ties with Umno,” said the former Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) associate professor.
His view is consistent with that of other analysts who argue that PAS can only become a true kingmaker if it works with other opposition parties to ensure straight fights against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
If the party persists on its current path of wanting to form a third opposition bloc, it would lose half of the 21 the seats it won in the 13th general election four years ago, said another analyst, Ibrahim Suffian of the think-tank Merdeka Center.
This is seen in the context of historically, BN always wins in multi-party contests as votes against it are split among different opposition parties.
“To be a real kingmaker, PAS needs to avoid multi-party fights and negotiate with all other opposition parties,” he said.
This is since all parties contesting in majority Malay-Muslim seats, such as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PKR would need PAS support to win, said Ibrahim, who is Merdeka Center executive director.
“So automatically, PAS support will become the deciding factor,” he said.
Since parties eyeing majority Malay Muslim seats will need PAS support, the Islamist party can then set the terms for cooperation and even influence the direction of the largest opposition bloc, Pakatan Harapan (PH).
PAS’s ambitions of being a kingmaker were expressed as early as January when the party organ Harakah front-paged a statement by Dr Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh titled: “PAS ‘kingmaker’ PRU14”.
On April 9, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man reiterated that it will not join PH or work with the pact’s member parties, DAP and Amanah. Instead, it will focus on building a third bloc with Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia.
Ibrahim predicts that PAS would lose at least 10 of the 21 parliamentary seats it currently holds. This includes the five seats that it lost when the MPs left to form Amanah.
“It will also lose seats it won on the west coast of the peninsula, such as Hulu Langat, Bukit Gantang and Pokok Sena, which have significant non-Muslim voters,” said Ibrahim.
His analysis supports that of Invoke’s, a research unit started by PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli. Invoke’s findings show that PAS could lose all its seats if it went up against BN and PH.