Is PAS’ proposal a ploy?

PETALING JAYA: After securing a landslide victory in the Kemaman by-election last Saturday, PAS surprisingly offered its old flame, Umno, an olive branch.

Unsurprisingly, the peace offering was swiftly snubbed by Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Wednesday, who said their former partner should stop daydreaming.

Also not surprised by PAS’ offer were political analysts such as Prof Datuk Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, who described it as a ploy to further weaken Umno.

“As they know Umno’s top leaders are adamant about rejecting PAS, they are appealing to Umno’s members to cast protest votes and eventually to support PAS’ interests in Islam and the Malay unity agenda,” said Sivamurugan of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Another analyst, Azmi Hassan, said PAS’ offer is also meant to destabilise the unity government of which Umno and the Barisan Nasional coalition it leads, is a member.

Azmi said that if Umno and Barisan Nasional MPs were to fall for the ploy and work again with PAS, the unity government would collapse.

“There will be a chain reaction from other parties retracting support and as I see it, the unity government will crumble,” added Azmi, who is a senior fellow at the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research.

He doubts that PAS needs to work with Umno, given that the party has strong Malay support.

In the 15th General Election and the August state elections, PAS and the Perikatan Nasional coalition displaced Umno in many of its stronghold seats in Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Perlis, Pahang and Perak.

In their most recent contest, the Dec 2 Kemaman parliamentary by-election, PAS and Perikatan defeated Umno by over 37,000-vote majority in a constituency that had traditionally been held by Umno.

After the Kemaman defeat, PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the Islamist party was open towards cooperating with Umno.

However, any collaboration with Umno must be through the Perikatan platform, which also includes Bersatu, he said.

But Perikatan has also suffered a significant setback after five of its MPs, all from Bersatu, declared their support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Sivamurugan added that PAS is now attempting to hedge its bet between Bersatu and Umno.

“If more (Bersatu MPs) do that (switch allegiance), then PAS is considering other options too. Its (offer to Umno) is a sign that PAS has yet to fully shut its doors to Umno.

“This also acts as a signal to Bersatu, where questions will be raised on why PAS wants to work with Umno when Bersatu is still in Perikatan,” said Sivamurugan.

Umno and PAS joined forces after the 14th General Election, where they formed the Muafakat Nasional pact. However, tensions escalated when PAS joined Perikatan, leading to the collapse of the Muafakat pact between the Islamist party and Umno.

Azmi also noted that Perikatan leaders have repeatedly claimed that it has the “numbers” to topple the unity government.

“Most people are not keen (for a change in administration). For the last three years, the government and prime ministers changed too many times,” added Azmi.Sivamurugan echoed this sentiment, saying that Perikatan should focus on its role as the Opposition to check and balance the government.

“Otherwise, trust and confidence will deteriorate when the public realises that it is only out for power and positions,” he added.

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