Azmin offers ‘olive branch’

Selangor MB was a no-show at PAS muktamar but he sent a representative whose words of friendship were what PAS leaders wanted to hear.

DATUK Seri Azmin Ali would have been the man of the moment had he turned up for the opening of the PAS muktamar.

The Selangor Mentri Besar has been severely criticised by PAS delegates at their annual party gathering but the top PAS leadership had been hoping against hope that he would show up.

Instead, Azmin sent his vice-president Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin, who was ushered on stage to sit alongside the PAS leadership.

Dr Shaharuddin was a poor substitute to the Mentri Besar. He does not have the star power and many people did not even know who he was.

But he managed to say all the right things to soothe feelings in these difficult times.

Dr Shaharuddin said that even if the tahaluf siyasi (political cooperation) came to an end between the two parties, they could still cooperate in other ways.

He also disassociated his party from the stand of his secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution who had asked PAS to resign from all the state government posts.

He said it was Saifuddin’s personal stand and the party has not made any decision to ask PAS to leave the state government.

It was music to the ears of PAS leaders who saw it as an olive branch from Azmin.

There is some sort of paradoxical situation going on in PAS.

The party wants to terminate ties with PKR – the sentiment has snowballed to a point of no return and the resolution to break off will probably go through at the end of the three-day muktamar.

But the party does not want to let go of the posts that come with being part of the Selangor government.

As such, the leadership was hoping that Azmin would turn up and turn on that famous boyish charm of his to help soften the hearts of the delegates.

“We still regard Azmin as our friend. During the Sungai Besar by-election, he supported another party but he stated very clearly that the PAS candidate has a role to play in his government,” said Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, who is the political secretary to the PAS president.

Had Azmin been there, the party would be able to explain his presence as proof that the Mentri Besar still needs PAS and wants the party in the state government even though ties have gone sour.

The argument among PAS leaders is that party politics and government are two different matters.

They say that PAS has every right to remain in the state government because that was the mandate from the Selangor voters.

It takes two to tango. If Azmin does not expel PAS from the Selangor government and if PAS refuses to resign, then the dancing will go on even though the music has stopped.

DAP has the most seats in the Selangor administration but it has been reduced to the role of a helpless bystander, unable to stop the dancing.

These opposition people have managed to take politics to a whole new level.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was also playing some big-time politics of his own.

Everyone noticed that his presidential speech this year did not mention any political party, whether Umno or any of the Pakatan Harapan parties.

Instead, he took swipes at parties which would do anything in order to win, including promoting liberalism and secularism.

He criticised parties which were competing to challenge Islam and oppose those who want to bring Islam to a higher level among Muslims in the country.

According to Dr Samsuri, it is a strategic speech that aims to position PAS as an alternative force or what he terms as Gagasan Sejahtera (harmonious option).

He said the president visualises a “green tsunami” made up of political parties as well as civil society and NGOs.

It will be the alternative choice of those who do not accept the politics of the two established coalitions.

There is also another reason why Abdul Hadi did not attack any specific party by name.

“He sees PAS as the kingmaker in the general election and he wants to keep his options open. If neither side gets the numbers to form a government, PAS will be the kingmaker,” said Dr Samsuri.

Although Azmin was missing from the muktamar, former mentri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim was there to show support for the party that had stood by him in his moment of need several years ago.

The millionaire corporate man-turned-politician is said to be one of the party’s most generous funders, especially during last year’s by-elections.

Khalid downplayed surveys claiming that PAS would be the big loser in the general election.

He said such surveys, which are based on 1,000 to 2,000 respondents, often overlook the influence of social media which reaches out to millions of people.

He also said PAS has the mandate to remain as part of the Selangor government.

The current and the former mentris besar of Selangor cannot stand the sight of each other but they both have something in common – they have the support of PAS.

Khalid relied on PAS when he was under siege by forces in DAP and PKR and it is now Azmin’s turn to keep PAS on his side so that his government does not fall.

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