Umno-PAS alliance a ‘reinvention’ to remain relevant

P Ramasamy
20th December 2015

COMMENT Is it a major surprise to Malaysians that Umno and PAS are moving closer and closer for a final embrace? Or are Malaysians shocked beyond belief that those once-formidable foes have sunk their deep-seated differences for a new political alignment?

Whether Malaysians are surprised or shocked, the reality of this new alliance seems to be looming in the horizon. Whether such a relationship will be cemented in the form of admission of PAS into BN or a formation of a different sort of arrangement, remains to be seen.

However, most political analysts seem to think that a political relationship is in the offing.

What are the benefits for Umno if this alignment takes shape?

First, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak needs the support of Malays so that he can continue to hold power in Umno – and by definition, continue on as the premier of the country – until the next general election.

Since PAS has not attacked Najib on the RM2.6 billion deposits he received in his accounts, and nor has it questioned the shady deals of 1MDB but on the contrary defended Najib on these two controversial matters, the likelihood of PAS emerging as an ally seems attractive to Umno.

Second, despite the fall in Malay support for Umno, it is the only strong party in the BN coalition; otherwise, BN is in shambles. MCA, Gerakan and MIC are not in a position to deliver votes for BN in the coming general election. These non-Malay parties are weak, and have become politically irrelevant for the continuation of BN.

Third, given the vacuum in non-Malay support, Umno thinks that the time is ripe to seek an alignment with PAS even if such an alignment would deal a death knell for BN. Of course, the prospect of this alliance has come about as PAS itself is experiencing internal problems of great magnitude.

Fourth, since Najib has placed so much premium on his own survival rather than that of Umno, he has no qualms about seeking accommodation with PAS even though both parties are ideologically divided on the question of Islam and the nature of political governance.

What is the attraction for PAS?

PAS is at its lowest point in the political history of Malaysia. Its purge of progressive Islamic leaders that led to the formation of Parti Amanah Negara has taken away some support from the party. Most importantly, PAS has lost leaders who are articulate and who could take on Umno – both in the Parliament and outside.

Given this development, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang thinks that by supporting Umno, he could re-engineer support for PAS.

Moreover, PAS is a political party that is well known for political rhetoric, but very poor in political governance. The way it has governed Kelantan speaks volumes of its nature. During the 2014 floods, its administration could not even organise and render social, economic and welfare assistance to those affected. There are grounds to believe that without an alliance with Umno, it might be able to retain power in Kelantan in the next general election.

PAS under the present leadership seems to realise that it has reached a dead-end in Malaysian politics; and unless it reworks its political strategy and forms a new alliance, it would be forgotten in the due course of time.

Hence, the present move on the part of PAS to endear itself with Umno and refraining from criticising Najib on matters of corruption, reflects the internal crises within the party and how it is moving in the direction of “reinventing” itself.

Also, given the autocratic leadership style of its leader Hadi, there is little or no time for dissent in the PAS – the move to embrace Umno reflects not a consensus within the party, but a position of Hadi himself and his sycophants.

Implications for the non-Malay parties in BN

MCA’s vehement opposition to the admission of PAS in BN might not have the desired effect. MCA, given its weak position in the Chinese community, might not be in a position to oppose the admission of PAS; in fact, Umno does not care a damn of MCA, Gerakan or MIC.

These parties exist not because of the support they get from their respective communities, but from the lifeline extended by Umno.

The question of MCA or another non-Malay party opposing the new alliance might not have any impact on Umno. It is better for MCA to say that it would leave BN if PAS is admitted, rather than say it would oppose the move. But will MCA have the guts to do so? I doubt it.

And forget about Gerakan or MIC, these are non-consequential political parties. Even if Umno does not admit PAS, the former can always have a different kind of political arrangement to accommodate with it. Again, the MCA embargo on PAS’ entry into BN might not make any sense – at least for the moment.

Furthermore, given the dire straits that Umno is caught in at the moment, there is little that these non-Malay political parties can do to prevent this alliance.

In their entire political history, Umno today is at its weakest. If it wants to remain relevant in the Malaysian political scenario, then its choices are limited as non-Malay support for the party has virtually vanished in the peninsular.

The strange part is that it is not Umno who is really in trouble, it is Najib. But the latter has been capable of dragging the entire party into the mud, as though his survival is the survival of the party – which is what former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been trying to tell the Malaysian public.

P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.

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  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 21 December 2015 - 2:50 pm

    Call it whatever you want, “re-invention”, “PAS always the loser”, “UMNO will never do Hudud”, its not going to stop Najib and Hadi to try every which way to make it happen.

    You know how you can stop it? Ask Hadi what Islam says about wife who do not tudung, meddle, even possibly dictate the affairs of his future Islamic state, spend lavishly on jewelry, Birkin bags, flying jets and have her own office in the PM office, potentially telling Islamic leaders and Ulamas what to do and say??

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