Hadi trying to be Nik Aziz, says academic

PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang says the party will look after the interests of the Chinese and Indians and defend Malaysia’s multiculturalism.

PETALING JAYA: An academic has speculated that PAS is seeking to shed its conservative image in order to make inroads into Sabah, Sarawak and those parts of Peninsular Malaysia where it lacks influence.

Syed Arabi Idid of International Islamic University Malaysia said he believed PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang was trying to emulate the late PAS spiritual adviser, Nik Aziz Mat, who enjoyed the trust of all races.

“Hadi, who is seen as someone who has been more closed and conservative, is now trying to appear to be more open,” he told FMT. “Will he succeed? We’ll have to wait and see.”

Hadi, in the policy speech he delivered on Friday at the PAS annual convention, said the party would look after the interests of the Chinese and Indians and defend Malaysia’s multiculturalism. He also said PAS was keen to see the standard of living improved in Sabah and Sarawak.

Syed Idid noted that PAS became more conservative after Nik Aziz’s death and rode on that image before GE14 in the belief that it could help it gain Malay support.

“Now, for GE15, it’s changing its strategy again to be friendly to all,” he said.

Political analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff also said PAS was seeking to expand its influence beyond its strongholds in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.

“It feels it now has a chance because a lot of moderate Malays, concerned over their rights as Malays and Muslims, are unhappy with PH (Pakatan Harapan),” he said.

“It will try to cooperate as much as possible with Umno while trying to play the role of an inclusive party.”

He said PAS was playing its game in full awareness of uncertainties over what would happen in Pakatan Harapan in the coming years.

He was referring mainly to the promised handover of the prime minister’s post from Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Anwar Ibrahim. He noted that there had been no clarity as to the date of the transition.

Until then, he said, PAS would try to gain the support of moderate Malays unhappy with PH.

But he added that the result of PAS’ game was also uncertain. “It may help it gain more supporters or it may backfire big time. There are a lot of radical Malays in PAS who might feel it is trying to be another Amanah.”

Kamarul said a lot of conservative Malays believed that Amanah, which is a PAS splinter, was giving in too much to the Chinese and Indians.

“Hadi will have to do a lot of balancing work to prevent his new strategy from backfiring,” he said.