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The big confusion that will be GE14

May 19, 2017

There is little likelihood PAS will win more seats than it did the last time simply because the party's conservative religious roadmap will easily scare off non-Muslims.

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By Lim Sue Goan

Malaysia’s political standards are taking a dive, to an extent way beyond our comprehension, the latest being PAS’s decision to sever ties with PKR although showing reluctance to let go of its Selangor state posts.

Like a couple that has publicly proclaimed their divorce, yet are still sharing the same bed at night, PAS’s actions can only be explained as that of one with a split personality.

Malaysian politics has served up a fair share of unprincipled and immoral incidents in the past four years.

For example, MCA, Gerakan and other Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties have been well aware of Umno’s secret deals with PAS, so much so that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang was given the green light to table his private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (RUU355).

BN component parties however chose to keep their eyes shut. They will continue to do so in July when Parliament sittings resume.

The PAS Syura Council approved the break-up with PKR because their leaders are living in their own world of conceit and can hardly see the prevailing political reality in the country.

How bizarre that PKR still fantasised about a possible reconciliation with PAS shortly before that, while Anwar Ibrahim and PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail still spent time refuting PAS’s three reasons for severing ties with them.

Why then is PAS still stubbornly staying put in the Selangor administration? State commissioner Sallehen Mukhyi explained that this was to allow PAS excos to do good work and prevent DAP from doing a “bad job”.

Out of the 56 state assembly seats in Selangor, PKR has 13, DAP (14), PAS (12), Amanah (2), Umno (12) and independents (2). Pakatan Harapan parties’ seats put together should still make a simple majority, and PAS’s withdrawal is therefore not going to bring down the state government anyway.

If PAS quits, the three state exco positions will be distributed between Amanah and DAP, which is the last thing PAS wants to see.

Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali seems to be able to read PAS’s mind, and is more than delighted to keep the status quo undisturbed in a bid to evade any political instability.

Nevertheless, it has been reported that Azmin has asked the three PAS exco members to resign of their own accord, which is seen as a retaliatory move aimed at embarrassing PAS.

Having dragged things on for four years, the Islamist party is eventually resolved to cut all the ties with Pakatan, meaning the coming general election is going to be a very open battle. Multi-cornered fights will be the norm.

PAS has sky-high ambitions, planning to run in more than a hundred parliamentary seats with an eye on winning 60 to 80.

Even if it manages to win 80 seats, it will still not form the federal government unless it teams up with Umno or other parties.

But, we all know how far this party can go. There is little likelihood it will ever win more seats than what it did the last time around because the party’s conservative religious roadmap will easily scare off non-Muslims.

Surveys and analyses show that Umno’s support in Malay-majority seats has slipped below 40% vis-à-vis PAS’s 20%.

A poll conducted by Invoke Centre for Policy Initiatives in April also shows that 29.8% of respondents will vote for Umno, 22.3% for PKR and only 11.2% for PAS.

PAS will easily be flushed out in the event of a three-cornered fight.

Meanwhile, the party has expressed its intention to contesting in nine parliamentary seats in KL’s Federal Territory, including PKR’s Batu and Lembah Pantai, and DAP’s Segambut.

Take Batu for instance – the mixed constituency had 44.41% Malay, 37.76% Chinese and 16.21% Indian voters in GE13. If PAS can secure only 20% of Malay votes, plus a handful of non-Muslim votes, it will be badly thrashed.

The party is set for a humiliating defeat in highly urbanised Selangor and the central region because urban Malays are more concerned about national issues than religion, whereas in Johor and Kedah, Muhyiddin and Mahathir still have substantial influence and PAS will not get its way any easier.

It can only count on predominantly Malay states like Kelantan and Terengganu to retain some of its seats.

What is alarming is that PAS will very likely play up religious issues in its quest for more electoral support. The rise of religious radicalisation in Indonesia and the conviction of Ahok should sound alarm bells.

Racism, theocracy and populism could go wild in an election war characterised by conspirators and adventurists capitalising on the situation to create havoc and deepen the already acute political crisis.

Lim Sue Goan is deputy executive chief editor of Sin Chew Daily.

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