Opposition to ditch PAS, says report

Opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia are set to ditch PAS in the next general election, says a report in The Straits Times (ST) of Singapore.

This is mainly because of their inability to woo PAS back to the opposition platform.

In the event that PAS goes its own way, the opposition would almost certainly hand the Barisan Nasional another victory. This time, the ST report said, the BN might even win back the two-thirds majority that it craves, which would give it power to change the Constitution and electoral rules.

The report noted that the tripartite PH and the PPBM had tried to woo PAS in vain. So, PH and PPBM went ahead with their own pact. But they have yet to officially exclude PAS from any broader opposition pact.

The ST report noted that PAS had begun to work with Umno on religious issues, a move that could sway the Malay-Muslim majority to lean further away from PH and its allies.

A decision on whether to drop PAS has become urgent as the 14th general election is expected to be held this year. The ST report said strategies were being formulated that excluded PAS.

“There is a growing consensus for PPBM and Amanah to take over from PAS. Negotiations are ongoing for PPBM to take about 40 of the more Malay seats, while Amanah will slot in for 30 or so on the more multiracial end,” it quoted an unnamed top PH strategist as saying.

Such a move, according to analysts and politicians the ST spoke to, would benefit Prime Minister Najib Razak’s BN. It might even result in handing back a two-thirds super majority in parliament that the government last held before the 2008 general election, said the report.

At the 2013 polls, BN won 133 seats, far in excess of the 112 needed for a simple majority. PAS won 21, but in 16 of these, the BN candidate managed to gain over 40 per cent of the vote.

If the next election sees the opposition splitting its support in PAS-held seats, BN could snatch the 15 more needed to reach the 148 for two-thirds control of parliament, according to the ST.

What’s more, PAS has promised to retaliate and field candidates in areas held by other opposition parties if its own seats are disturbed, handing an even bigger advantage to the ruling coalition.

Also, without PAS, the opposition will have a tough time winning federal power. Today, the combined opposition – minus PAS – has a total of 76 seats, according to parliament’s official website.

This means the PH-PPBM alliance will need to win 36 more seats to become the next government, which the ST sees as an almost impossible feat.

In the event that PAS is left out or does not want to be a part of the opposition pact, the strategy to be adopted by the PH allies is to equate PAS with Umno, which is “seen in some circles as aloof and governing with impunity after leading BN to victory in all the 13 general elections since independence”.

“If PAS is not with us, we need to make it clear as early as possible that a vote for PAS is a vote for Umno,” an aide to Mahathir told the ST. The DAP and Amanah, members of the PH, are ready to proceed on this course, according to the report.-12/1/2017

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