Sunday 18 November 2012

Bolstered by allies, matured PAS moves to the middle - Analysis by Zurairi AR and Mohd Farhan Darwis

By the end of today, PAS will be done with its 58th annual conference or muktamar, which saw the traditionally-conservative party launching into full election mode instead of pursuing an anti-Barisan Nasional (BN) theme common to these meets.

The term ‘tahaluf siyasi’ (political consensus) was bandied about regularly among the 1,116 delegates as the party moves to reconcile any differences they might have with their political allies, especially DAP, with which they have gone into collision course on issues such as Islamic state and hudud.

Notably, the address by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was silent on the issue of hudud, and instead focused on how the party would rule with its ‘benevolent state’ platform, including an outline to fix the nation’s economy.

Speaking to The Malaysian Insider, political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Agus Yusoff claimed that the central PAS leadership is seen to be more mature politically of late, as opposed to its more conservative Youth wing.

“PAS is now seen as bringing an agenda which is more suitable with the demand of times,” Agus said.
However, UKM political science lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Shamsul Adabi Mamat felt that it will be hard for PAS and PR to top BN’s current policies.

“Their (PAS and PR) policies are too idealistic, they are too good to be true.

“Abdul Hadi’s address was just meant to strengthen support from within the party, and to give more impact in convincing the public.”

The relative silence on hudud signals PAS’ compromise to not alienate its growing support from non-Muslims, especially the supporters’ wing (DHPP) which for the first time was allowed to send a delegate to debate in the muktamar.

DHPP members, including its chief Hu Pang Chaw and delegate K Deepakaran, who spoke were met with thunderous applause every time they showed their proficiency in Islamic terms and concepts.

During breaks, the music video of “PAS for all”, set to the tune of a multi-lingual anthem, was played regularly.

This is in stark contrast to the exclusively Malay party Umno — holding its own general assembly in two weeks’ time at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) — which is seen as using racial and religious sentiments to scare voters from voting for the opposition.

Shamsul believed that non-Muslims’ support for PAS had nothing to do with what the party had to offer: “It is widely thought that the Chinese’s support for the ruling coalition is declining.

“Their support is not so much they’re accepting PAS, but rather because by supporting PAS they will receive an opportunity to give BN a fiercer fight.”

This move towards maturity might have cost the central leadership confidence from their more assertive Ulama and Youth wing.

Wilayah Persekutuan’s delegate Zahari Arip had called for members to not abandon hudud, calling it the “main goal” and “core business” of the party.

Meanwhile, Ulama wing chief Datuk Harun Taib claimed that the opposition coalition had generally agreed that they will implement hudud if they win the next general election, a rouge statement which earned the chastisement of DAP chairman Karpal Singh.

There also was growing discontent for outspoken and eager leaders who comment on sensitive issues that might invite trouble for the party in the election.

Deputy advisor to PAS, Datuk Dr Haron Din had called for these leaders’ mouths to be ‘shut’, so they will not be manipulated by PAS’ enemies.

The party’s mouthpiece, Harakah and Harakahdaily, have also received heavy criticism, especially from the Youth wing, for allegedly straying too far from its roots.

One of the resolutions to be tabled at the muktamar today, but was passed without debate, is the restructuring of Harakah’s editorial board and form a committee to censor and control its content.

These criticisms, however, were seen by Abdul Hadi as democracy at work within the party, as opposed to parties which do not allow dissent directed towards their leadership.

According to political analyst Asri Salleh, PAS Youth wing had failed to utilise the muktamar to spread their message although it is their best platform to do so.

“PAS’ youth leadership seems to have failed to present their policies for youths, they should have use the muktamar to make their offers to the young generation,” he added.

The UiTM lecturer also claimed that PAS has reached a point of “saturation”, and needs the Pakatan platform to advance its cause.

“Support for PAS has always been stable ... maybe because of their religious approach.

“But now ... there is no decrease nor increase in support, and help from their PR friends will be essential to bring PAS to a higher level.”

Shamsul also agreed that the Islamist party is now in a transitional phase of co-existing and co-operating with its Pakatan allies.

“They’re in a whole new habitat.”

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