24 September 2014
It looks like the Selangor crisis has come to an end; at least for the moment. There are many constitutional issues that can be raised about the appointment of Azmin Ali as the new Menteri Besar, but I do not want to go into that here.
Instead I wish to discuss the impasse between PAS and their partners PKR and DAP which appears to have been settled for now. PAS did not want Wan Azizah to be MB, and PKR has grudgingly accepted Azmin Ali as the new MB. Therefore there is nothing to fight and argue about anymore. However, any peace between the component parties of Pakatan Rakyat is fragile at best. Sure things look like they have calmed down, but fundamental core issues have not been settled.
The first amongst this is the sheer venom that the PAS President has poured out during the recently concluded PAS Muktamah. His anger at the two PAS Selangor state assemblymen who decided to respect the agreement between the PR partners and go with PKR’s choice of MB (Wan Azizah) was far from statesman like. It not only denigrates the two individuals but it also poured scorn on the partners of PAS.
Which leads to the question, are they going to be partners for much longer? After all it is not just the PAS president who seems to be growing colder towards this alliance. There are strong forces within PAS, primarily from the more conservative elements of the party that seem to be in the same frame of mind.
I do not pretend to be an expert on PAS internal affairs. I am not a member and therefore this opinion is purely that of an outsider’s. In the last two general elections PAS has won much support from citizens who would not traditionally be considered PAS supporters. In fact it is because of this support that caused the delineation of state seats in Kedah to backfire on the ruling party in 2008.
The changing of electoral boundaries to make more areas in Kedah “mixed” was intended to dilute the number of Malay voters in several Kedah constituencies. The thinking behind this is that PAS only gets their support from Malays. What a shock it must have been to see that those same non-Malay voters who were thought to be anti PAS voting for the Islamist party in great numbers to the point that the state government fell into PAS control.
This support could partly be explained by the electorate wanting change, and they would vote for anyone as long as it was not BN. There is some truth to that, but it should also not be forgotten that PAS as a party has become more palatable to their non-traditional supporters in the past few years.
The moderate and pragmatic approach of their more progressive members made many think that there are more similarities than differences between PAS, DAP and PKR. Thus a workable government in waiting was there for the taking. The progressives in PAS moved away from the rhetoric normally associated with PAS and spoke instead of common ground, compromise and co-operation. They were more flexible in their ideology and much more inclusive. To the extent that you had PAS Supporters Clubs popping up all over the country consisting of non-Muslims who because of their religion could not join PAS proper.
This aspect of PAS support ought not to be forgotten. If the party moves away from this line of thinking and if they do not evolve into an entity which can appeal to a broader support base, whatever gains made in the past two elections may be lost. The question for PAS therefore is one of identity. If they are unhappy with the way things are and if they wish to return to a more hard-line approach to issues of faith and governance, which may well lead to the breaking up of the PR, then they must be prepared for a radical shift in their political fortunes.