Umno-PAS pact could be a force to reckon with, says analyst

PAS election director Roslan Shahir Mohd Shahir (middle) with Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob (left) and PAS Selangor commissioner Sallehen Mukhyi (right). (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An analyst has cautioned against underestimating the Umno-PAS alliance, saying it has the potential to become a strong political force.

However, Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the two parties could only become a threat to Pakatan Harapan (PH) if they discarded old ways of thinking and political practices.

“They cannot continue to use tactics they practised 20 years ago and apply them to today’s political situation.

“Those just don’t work anymore and are not appealing to their supporters or potential supporters,” he told FMT.

PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin previously said the pact between Umno and PAS would not be strong enough to pose a threat to PH.

“If they truly want to emerge as a strong opposition coalition, Umno and PAS need to start talking about national issues and how they can help the people solve problems, instead of being stuck in championing ethnic issues.

“They need to evolve as parties that are able to represent the people’s voices. Otherwise, they will never be able to stand on par with PH,” he said.

However, Awang Azman noted that Umno had managed to win more than 50 seats in the May 9 general election despite frequent derision by PPBM.

If Umno succeeded in reforming itself, he said, it would be able to compete with PPBM.

“Don’t forget that PPBM is still not strong enough when compared to Umno. It barely scraped through the general election,” he said.

He added that PPBM members were still unable to understand why the party was formed and did not grasp the party’s struggle.

“They have yet to get to know their supporters or the people who voted for them. Instead, they are so busy addressing ministerial affairs that they have forgotten to engage with the people who supported them during the general election.

“They need to move faster with efforts to strengthen the party before it is too late – before (PKR president-elect) Anwar Ibrahim takes over as prime minister.

“When that happens, PPBM may end up becoming a secondary party within PH because Anwar would want to uphold PKR leaders. The priority will likely be given to PKR leaders when it comes to positions of power,” he said.

Right now, he added, PPBM only had two strong icons: its chairman and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin who is president and home minister.

“Once these two are gone, the party may become weak. We have yet to see other strong leaders emerging within this party.”

Asked about the recent by-election in Seri Setia, where Umno and PAS had joined forces for the second time, Awang Azman said the campaign was a prelude of how cooperation between the two parties would develop.

“Right now, their cooperation is only visible or effective at the top leadership. Why PAS didn’t manage to win the by-election was because of disagreements among the grassroots members of the two parties.

“Both their grassroots members have yet to accept this cooperation. They could have lost Seri Setia by a lower margin if their cooperation was strengthened, and might even have won the by-election.

“But it boils down to how they address the disagreements between their grassroots members,” he said.

In the May 9 polls, Umno won 54 seats nationwide versus 12 by PPBM.