In Seri Setia, Umno’s return gesture to PAS a warning for PH

Umno’s Lokman Noor Adam greets PAS supporters in Kota Raja recently, as he reaches out for support from the Islamist party.

PETALING JAYA: Umno may have returned the gesture to PAS when the party announced it was staying away from the upcoming by-election for Seri Setia in Selangor, but the country’s two largest opposition parties may still be far from forming a partnership, says an analyst.

But Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya agrees that by not coming into each other’s way in the Sungai Kandis by-election today, both parties are showing early signs of cooperation.

“This doesn’t mean they will form a coalition like the Pakatan Harapan parties,” he told FMT, adding that the cooperation seemed to be more seasonal and issues-related, such as during debates touching on Muslim and Malay interests in the Dewan Rakyat.

Yesterday, Umno said the party would not contest the by-election in Seri Setia, the state seat in Selangor made vacant by the death of its incumbent from PKR, Shaharuddin Badaruddin.

Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan said the decision was to reciprocate PAS for staying away from the Sungai Kandis by-election.

PAS has said it did not want to split opposition votes, and has signalled to its members that voting for Barisan Nasional candidate Lokman Noor Adam would provide more check and balance in the PH-dominated Selangor state assembly.

Awang Azman said PH would now face a bigger challenge from the combined onslaught of Umno and PAS.

He reminded that both parties have received some 70% of Malay votes in the May 9 polls, based on figures from pollster Merdeka Center.

“Additionally, Malay voters seem ‘united’ on issues of religion, language and ethnicity which are increasingly being politicised and which BN and PAS claim PH are not sensitive to,” he added.

Political analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff said if BN and PAS continued to ensure straight fights against PH in elections, it could spell trouble for the ruling coalition.

“Such an arrangement will push PH to make more concessions towards the Malay-Muslim community because both Umno and PAS will push the Malay-Muslim agenda and say the same things against PH.”

But Kamarul too said it was too early to tell if BN and PAS would form an alliance.

He said at present, only Umno leaders were eager to work with PAS.

He said PAS’ support for Umno in Sungai Kandis was due to their common hatred for PH, but this, he added, could not be a strong basis for political cooperation.

“Many PAS members won’t agree with working with Umno, especially with former prime minister Najib Razak still in the picture,” he said, adding that Umno under Najib was rejected in Kelantan, Terengganu and to some extent, Kedah, states where PAS made major gains in the last polls.

Kamarul said once Najib is completely out of the picture from Umno, it could lead to some form of formal cooperation.

Umno: Our turn to make way for PAS in Seri Setia