Two years ago, Datuk Husam Musa was hailed as a rising star in PAS. Today, he is fighting for his political survival in a three-way battle for the party deputy president’s post.
IS Datuk Husam Musa’s political career about to come to an end this Saturday?
The rising star in PAS is apparently struggling in the fight for the PAS deputy president’s post.
In a rare interview with a Malay daily yesterday, Husam said with his usual candour: “Saya sedia kalah dalam pemilihan PAS” (If I am defeated, I will accept it).”
The three-way fight for the No. 2 post has the incumbent and ulama figure Nasharudin Mat Isa as the clear front-runner and the underdogs are Husam and the third candidate Mohamed Sabu, popularly known as Mat Sabu.
It is beginning to look like a do-or-die battle for Husam because one rarely recovers if defeated for a post as high as this.
Husam is not only fighting a strong incumbent, he is also challenging the notion that a non-ulama can become the party No. 2. His track record in the party outshines that of many others, including his rivals Nasharudin and Mat Sabu.
But the fact is that the Universiti Malaya economics graduate did not go through the rigours of an Islamic education. And that is now his stumbling block.
To make things worse for Husam, Nasharudin has some pretty big cannons in the party firing at Husam.
The big cannons include no less than the charismatic spiritual healer Datuk Dr Haron Din and the new Dewan Ulama chief Datuk Harun Taib. Both are authoritative and influential ulama voices in the party.
It is no secret, party president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang is also partial to Nasharudin although he has kept an “elegant silence,” so to speak.
Both Dr Haron and Harun have openly said that only an ulama can lead the party. They said that if the post is given to a professional, it will destroy the party and the enemies of PAS will infiltrate it through these professional leaders.
Husam has also had to put up with attacks on the Internet and some of his detractors have even set up blogs for the sole purpose of attacking him.
Outwardly, the main issue surrounding the deputy president contest is about defending the party policy of “leadership by the ulama”.
But there are also more complex underlying issues.
Nasharudin represents the more conservative group who comprise the ulama as well as non-ulama.
This group is critical of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and feel that their Islamic agenda cannot be realised in working with the DAP and PKR. They prefer the idea of sharing power with Umno, another Muslim-Malay party, in order to realise their Islamic agenda.
As a result of their pro-Umno stance, Nasharudin’s group has been getting rather good coverage in Utusan Malaysia.
In retaliation, Nasharudin’s detractors have labelled him “Umno’s candidate” and implied that Utusan Malaysia was campaigning for him.
Husam, on the other hand, is the vanguard of the group that is opposed to Umno. This group believes that the Pakatan Rakyat coalition can capture Putrajaya in the next general election.
In his interview with the Malay daily, Husam said he believes PAS could become the most dominant political party in the country and that the Prime Minister would come from PAS.
He envisages his party president, Hadi, as the prime minister and not some minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, implying that would be the scenario if PAS were to join Umno in a unity government.
The rivalry between the two groups has been described as the conservatives versus the reformists. But basically, both groups have their eye on Putrajaya.
The trouble is that one group wants to take the Umno highway while the other wants to take the Pakatan Rakyat road.
Husam has indicated that he is contesting for the post because he wants to put the party on the right track for the next general election. He said he does not intend to cling on to the post.
The third candidate Mat Sabu said he is leaving it to God and the delegates. He is seen as the spoiler who will take away votes that might otherwise go to Husam. Yet, no one is grudging him because he is such a likeable party man.
Many in PAS are convinced that their party will arrive in Putrajaya by the next general election.
The outcome of the deputy president’s contest may determine whether they will arrive by the Umno highway or the Pakatan road.