PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang rebuffed the offer of Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to join the unity government.
At the recent PAS 69th Congress in Shah Alam, Hadi refused the offer by saying that PAS will have nothing to do with an impure government consisting of tainted leaders. In other words, leaders who were once jailed, those charged with corruption, convicts, court clusters and others who are morally tainted.
Certainly, in coming up with such a reply, PAS seems to have established its higher moral and religious grounds in politics.
Anyway, why should PAS, the strongest political party in terms of parliamentary and state seats establish political ties with the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional (PH-BN) coalition that has hardly any Malay support?
Interestingly, the recent congress provided an opportunity for the Hadi to admit to a particular political reality that had eluded the party for some time—the reality of the presence of non-Malays. It is not that the party had not cooperated with non-Malay political parties before such as the DAP, for some time, it refused to acknowledge the need for non-Malay political support.
However, the 69th Congress marks the first time in history that PAS aspires for national political power. To do this, the party needs the support of non-Malays.
Perhaps, surprisingly and not surprisingly, Hadi waved the olive branch at the non-Malays. He reminded the delegates that PAS cannot capture national power without the support of non-Malays, the Chinese and Indians.
Such a statement by none other than Hadi has important implications for the party in the political arena of Malaysia.
In the days, weeks, months and years ahead, PAS together with its partner Bersatu might be on the trajectory to woo non-Malay support. How they are going to entice the non-Malays remains to be seen.
PAS leaders understand that the so-called extremism of the party was more to enable the party to gather Malay political support from UMNO. Hadi might have been hard on DAP but given the political reality, there is nothing to stop the party from wooing the Chinese and Indians.
Moreover, PAS also realises that not all Chinese and Indians are happy with supporting the Madani government.
Indian disenchantment with the PH-BN coalition in the recent state elections is something that was not lost on the Perikatan Nasional (PN).
Under different political circumstances, if there is another political alternative, PAS or PN might be able to obtain non-Malay support.
There is also the realisation that while the bulk of Chinese support for the present government is channelled through the DAP, the latter is caught in a situation where it cannot further the interests of the Chinese community.
Furthermore, there is a realisation that PAS might have to move on, which enables the party to reconsider and refigure its larger political role.
With power comes arrogance or responsibility, I think that there might be indications that the party is moving from arrogance to responsibility. Responsibility means the need on the part of PAS to recalibrate its position and role in the larger national context.
I am not saying that PAS is going to eschew its brand of extremism overnight by taking on a broader and more meaningful role in the national political arena. National politics is a complicated and diverse political arena.
How political parties on the two sides of the political divide might engage in alliances, confrontations and coalition formations remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, one thing seems sure, PAS might be in the process of shedding its original skin to embrace the emerging political reality in Malaysia. The long-held view particularly among the non-Malays that PAS stands for religious extremism might possibly undergo political transformation.
While PAS has made significant inroads in the Malay heartland, UMNO is on the precipice of losing Malay support.
Anwar might have rendered a great service to UMNO leaders like Deputy PM Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, but the incontrovertible fact is that the latter’s liability remains, akin to a huge pumpkin that cannot be concealed by a heap of cooked rice (Tamil saying).
The ball is at the feet of PAS to show Malaysians that it is not the party of ethnic and religious extremism—that it is ready to embrace and cherish ethnic and religious diversity in Malaysia. – Oct 21, 2023
Former deputy chief minister II of Penang and ex-Perai state assemblyman Prof Ramasamy Palanissamy was also a former Penang Development Corporation (PDC) board member.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main photo credit: Theleaders–online