Seri Setia by-election a litmus test for PAS, Umno, say analysts

Political analysts believe it will be an uphill task to convince voters to support the cooperation between Umno and PAS. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: While they were once adversaries, the political landscape post-GE14 has pushed both Umno and PAS to work together for their own survival.

Since being ousted from power on May 9, Umno has been making overtures to PAS with the hope that the two parties could find a common ground to strengthen their political base.

Umno even set aside its antagonism with PAS and sought the cooperation of the Islamist party during the Sungai Kandis by-election early this month.

PAS reciprocated by endorsing Umno’s candidate for the seat and in turn, the latter made way for PAS to contest in the Seri Setia by-election on Sept 8.

While the decision to work together was decided by the top echelon of both parties, it remains to be seen if party loyalists and supporters from these two parties are convinced of this new alliance.

However, political analysts remain sceptical over the political cooperation between Umno and PAS as they view the cooperation as ad-hoc in nature, as it only happens during by-elections.

Analysts also see an uphill task for both parties to convince voters, especially the Malays in Selangor, to support the cooperation.

Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Izani Mohd Zain from the Faculty of Human Ecology of University Putra Malaysia says Umno and PAS need to first convince members and voters that the political cooperation initiated during the Sungai Kandis by-election on Aug 4 was mutually beneficial.

“No doubt I can see that the cooperation of Umno and PAS in Seri Setia is more organised compared to that of the Sungai Kandis by-election, but their supporters’ understanding and appreciation of the cooperation is crucial in bringing in the votes for them,” he told Bernama.

The Seri Setia by-election is being called following the death of its incumbent assemblyman Prof Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin on Aug 2 due to colon cancer. The by-election will be held concurrently with the by-election in Balakong, after the death of its incumbent Eddie Ng Tien Chee in a road accident on July 20.

The Seri Setia by-election, one of three held in Selangor since the 14th general election, involves a straight fight between Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Halimey Abu Bakar, the former Petaling Jaya city councillor, and PAS’ Dr Halimah Ali who is the former assemblyman for Selat Klang and former Selangor state executive councillor.

Izani believes it is too early to judge on the effectiveness of the political cooperation between Umno and PAS in Seri Setia but is sure that both sides are set to exploit common issues involving the interests of the Malays and Islam.

Meanwhile, another political analyst from Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Social Sciences Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian also concurred with Izani that the cooperation is still in its infancy.

However, he believes that the Seri Setia by-election could well be a testing ground to gauge the grassroots’ acceptance of the cooperation between the two sides that may even pave the way for some sort of alliance in the future.

“What we see in this cooperation is that the top-level leaders from Umno and PAS are going down to the ground and sharing the same stage to help campaign for the PAS candidate in the Seri Setia by-election and we could easily see that the top leaders from both sides are willing to forgo their differences.

“What we also want to see is that whether PAS members come out in huge numbers to vote or if Umno members themselves vote for the PAS candidate,” he said.

Sivamurugan said the by-election would also allow Umno and PAS to see whether there were protest votes coming from within the Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties like MCA and MIC, which could spell doom for the coalition.