UMNO’S plans to celebrate its political cooperation with PAS with a mega rally will be fine-tuned when both parties meet in July, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said.
He said the rally would be an important gathering to mark the new-found relationship between the two Malay-Muslim parties.
“The main organising committee will have their second meeting next month.
“The message of the gathering is ‘Unity of the Ummah’ to strengthen the Malay agenda, Islamic agenda and national unity,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
Tajuddin also said the charter on Umno-PAS cooperation would be launched at the rally.
This comes after PAS and Umno formally sealed their political cooperation at the Islamist party’s annual congress earlier this month. The motion for both parties, who were traditionally rivals, to work together was passed by delegates at the congress.
PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said the coming rally was important to create awareness about Malay-Muslim solidarity.
“The aim is to mobilise the Malays and Muslims to a gathering to understand the importance of unity among the ummah (believers).
“There is no other motive for the rally, it’s not to threaten (anyone or any other parties),” he told The Malaysian Insight.
Other Umno leaders have also welcomed the event, with Perak Umno chairman Saarani Ahmad saying it was proof that PAS and Umno can set aside their rivalry to work together.
“It shows there is an understanding between Umno and PAS. We will continue to help one another.”
Umno Supreme Council member Jalaluddin Alias said the rally was preparation for the next general election, which must be called by early 2023.
“With a formal charter, it shows we are prepared to face the 15th general election,” the Jelebu MP said.
PAS Youth member Khairil Nizam said the rally was not about being racists or upholding a particular race.
“This is not a gathering of racists. We want to tell non-Muslims not to be afraid. Our political enemies are bound to claim that the rally is a racist gathering.”
Amanah shrugs off ‘behind the times’ Umno-PAS alliance
THE new Islamic alliance between PAS and Umno will not affect Pakatan Harapan’s support among Malays or its chances of re-election, as long as the coalition performs, said Amanah.
The leaders of PH’s multiracial and progressive Islamist arm, seen by many as PAS’ ideological opposite in the ruling coalition, appeared unfazed by the novel tie-up, despite its wide grassroots network among Malays, who form more than 60% of the electorate.
Umno and PAS are the country’s largest parties by membership.
The new opposition pact is also betting that its nationalistic Malay-Muslim ideology and claims that the Malay community is being sidelined by the PH government will strike a chord with voters.
“In two to three years, as we govern with PH, I am confident that Malays will accept our message of moderation, of mutual respect,” said Amanah communications director Khalid Samad.
“That is the real message brought by political Islam.”
However, some say pulling traditional Malays to the progressive side will be nothing short of an uphill challenge for Amanah.
“(The Pas-Umno pact) will affect support for PH, especially in rural areas, because of the lack of information about what’s going on in the world,” said academic Dr Megat Al Imran Yasin of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Umno and PAS have also traditionally maintained a large presence in rural communities through their dominance in influential local bodies, such as village and surau management committees.
Numbers don’t add up
The foundation of the Umno-PAS alliance was announced at the Islamist party’s annual congress in Kuantan, Pahang, last week, where its grassroots leaders officially green-lit the party’s tie-up with Umno, its traditional nemesis.
PAS’ conservative Islamist ideology will form the core of the alliance’s set of beliefs, making Malay-Muslim supremacy the overriding principle in forming government policies.
According to its interpretation of Islam, PAS will have Islam play an even more significant role in public life than it already does, including in areas such as the economy, where its presence has been limited.
PAS and Umno strategists believe that the pact will pool Malay votes that had been split by multiple candidates in the 14th general election to give it an edge over PH, which is seen as weak in terms of Malay support.
The Umno-PAS pact is looking to recover about 30 parliamentary seats, such as Pokok Sena, Parit Buntar and Lumut, lost to PH in GE14 due to PAS and Umno candidates contesting against each other.
Kedah Amanah election director Adnan Saad, however, said he was not surprised that PAS would now take the lead, seeing as to how Umno’s brand was thoroughly rejected in GE14.
“PAS wants to use Umno’s wide Malay network and Umno wants to use PAS to whitewash its tattered image,” said Adnan.
Neither does Adnan believe that the political number-crunching Umno and PAS are betting on – of pooling their votes to corral a huge chunk of the Malay vote – will result in automatic wins.
“In politics, two plus two does not necessarily equal four. On paper, they look like they can win now, but there are variables and dynamics that can change in each election,” he said.
He cited Umno’s hubris in believing that because of its victories in the Sg Besar and Kuala Kangar by-elections of 2016, that multi-candidate fights would serve only to benefit the party.
However, in GE14, such multi-candidate contests split the Malay vote, and it was PH parties like Amanah and Bersatu that benefited.
Past v future
Another speedbumb on Umno and PAS’ road to bliss is one that has been decades-long in the making – their historic enmity.
“Many PAS members still cannot accept Umno,” said Nizar Jamaluddin, once a PAS member who, like several of his compatriots, made the move to Amanah.
“When the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission revealed five to six Umno members received dirty money from former Umno president Najib Razak, it proved PAS had teamed up with thieves and robbers,” said Nizar.
Other Amanah leaders believe that in the next few years, more and more Malays will wake up and see PH for the better government that it is, leaving Umno and PAS’ obsolete racial-religious rhetoric in the dust.
“If (Umno and PAS) want to continue the narrow politics of race, let them, but that is not Malaysia,” said Amanah election director Dr Hatta Ramil.
“Do you think the people of Sabah and Sarawak will accept them? No way.
“This is the political risk they are taking but we will continue with our inclusive politics, where we work together with all groups.
“This is the Malaysia we are trying to build,” said Hatta.
Meanwhile, Adnan said he believed that Malays, even those in rural areas, would come around to see PH’s good governance and inclusivity as the way of the future.
“We hope that Malays can see this: that PAS and Umno’s politics are of the past and that we are bringing a new kind of politics, a politics suited for the future.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT