Pitfalls of the Umno-PAS accord

Pakatan Harapan might have problems, but there’s is no smooth sailing for Umno-PAS under the new accord.

Politics or for that matter any discussions, whatever the subject matter, do not take place in a vacuum.

The discussion or debates are always in response to some other developments, whether in agreement or disagreement.

Similarly, the discussions and debates about the newly-formed political cooperation between Umno and PAS cannot be simply understood in abstraction, without factoring the other.

The “other” refers to the emergence of the new political coalition of PH, the effect it had on Umno and PAS, the filing of criminal charges against some Umno leaders for corruption, abuse of power and others.

The speed in sealing the stamp of political cooperation, something that had evaded both the parties for decades, is testimony to the consolidation of two major Malay political parties to get the support of the Malays.

In a more particular sense, the new friendship is among others aimed at unseating the PH coalition in the next general election.

This new national charter, as a political platform for Umno and PAS, tells nothing about the concrete agenda of both the parties in ensuring balanced economic development for Malaysians, eradicating the scourge of poverty, eradication of corruption, abuse of power, ensuring transparency on the part of the government and the removal of laws that stand in the way of human rights.

The Malay-Muslim unity is just a mere call for Malays to unite on the grounds of race and religion.

Although the gathering was directed at Malays, the charter did not exclude the concern for non-Malays and the need to abide by the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Despite the fanfare generated about the new attempt at political cooperation, both the parties will have a long way to go in unseating the PH in the next general election.

The newly-arrived political cooperation cannot be taken lightly by the PH and its component parties.

Yes, the new political accord of Umno and PAS might be silent on broad macro issues such as economic development, eradication of poverty and others, but the appeal of both the parties to race and religion can arouse people to vote along emotional lines.

If PH doesn’t address pertinent developmental matters during this term, there is likelihood that economic and social grievances of the disadvantaged segments might be diverted along racial and religious lines in support of Umno and PAS.

This is the reason why the new charter engaged in generalities without touching on concrete issues because some notable Umno leaders are facing multiple corruption charges, including the current president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

PAS is not an innocent party either.

While there might be corruption charges against its leaders, it does not diminish the fact that there are serious allegations of the party benefitting from 1MDB funds before the last general election from Umno.

Yes, the new political accord of Umno and PAS might pose trouble for PH provided the latter takes it seriously in addressing the pressing concerns of Malaysians.

More than 16 months have elapsed since the general election victory, the promises in the PH election manifesto are yet to be sufficiently addressed.

The issue of poverty remains unresolved for those in the B40 low-income segment.

PH is yet to fully understand the exact nature of poverty in the country.

The succession issue remains ambiguous despite the earlier agreement that PKR’s president Anwar Ibrahim will succeed Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Of course, the new political accord does not mean automatic support or blind support for Umno and PAS.

It is still not certain both the parties can capture the Malay-majority seats in the peninsula.

I seriously doubt that race and religious appeals of both the parties will have resonance in Sabah and Sarawak.

PH has another three and half years to go before the next general election.

There is a possibility that if PH gets its act together, things could change for the benefit of the ruling coalition.

If some of the Umno leaders who are being prosecuted for corruption and related charges are found guilty and convicted, the leadership of Umno might be in crisis.

This might spell problems for the accord.

Notwithstanding the weakness of PH, the Umno-PAS pact might face internal problems in time to come as to who will be the prime minister, whether the candidate will be from Umno or PAS.

I don’t think that Umno would concede to PAS on this point.

As far as Umno is concerned, the political accord does not mean it will accept PAS as a national party. It should remain as a regional party.

Whether in reference to PH or not, there are too many internal problems that might emerge in the future to complicate the friendship between Umno and PAS to render the new accord as ineffective, if not premature.

P Ramasamy is deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.