Tuesday, June 2, 2009

PAS Elections: A struggle for the party’s conscience

I distinctly remember, in the leadup to the Umno Elections, an analyst
in a mainstream newspaper writing that the contests were one for the
conscience of the party, as much as for positions. Whilst I do not
deny that the Assembly in March staged hallmark elections for a party
facing the largest challenge ever to its political dominance, one can
scarcely find any indication that the contests were reflections of an
ideological divide. The only prospective similarity between the two
events is the allegations of money politics.

In Umno, when the candidates stood against each other, they
were voted for based on the perceived relative abilities, and not
because they symbolised distinct, mutually exclusive ideologies –
parties within a party, if you like.

The same cannot be said of the upcoming PAS Elections. As the junior
partner in the makeshift Pakatan Rakyat coalition, PAS as a party
appears to be much less comfortable with the changes to the political
scene compared to its PR comrades. It is almost as though that now it
finds itself, as some say, on the cusp of power, the party is confused
and riddled with internal disagreements about how exactly to go about

Nowhere is this more apparent than the three-way contest for the post
of Deputy President, between incumbent Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Husam
Musa, and Mat Sabu. The important subscript to this contest is that it
is viewed as an internal referendum on two factions: those aligned to
the pro-muqabalah and those inclined to the pro-Pakatan Rakyat Erdogan
group. Crucially, this proxy battle is really not about a battle
between individuals or personalities; it is instead a genuine battle
of ideas. Thus, there is no mistaking the ideological rift within PAS,
a problem on a scale non-existent within Umno since its founding
father Dato’ Onn Jaafar wanted to open Umno up to non-Malays.

Notwithstanding the internal rift, Should Nasharuddin win as expected,
it would signal a PAS still significantly resistant to the unholy
trinity with DAP and PKR. The Anwar-chum Husam, on the other hand, is
fighting for his political survival in PAS, with an unlikely victory
certainly spelling a more coherent Pakatan Rakyat under the de facto
leadership of Anwar, much to Umno’s annoyance. But if the result of
the Youth Head post is anything to go by, conservatives within the
party appear adamant to remain in it comfort zone – one synonymous
with ulama, Islamist and Malay. The new head Nasaruddin Tantawi is as
conservative as they come – best described as the PAS version of a
Khir Toyo had the latter won the post of Umno Youth Chief. The depth
of the aforementioned ideological split is reflected by the recent
cynical remark by Nasaruddin who told Husam to run for the Presidency
to ‘correct’ the party – the implication being that Husam is viewed by
the muqabalah faction as a radical element dangerous to the purity of
the party’s conscience. In the sphere of reapolitik, the fact that
Husam is out of favour with PAS Youth would also mean that should he
lose in the contest, Anwar will likely have no qualms about leaving
him for dead - the latter will not support an individual who cannot
promise the voting bloc amongst the PAS-inclined younger generation.

There is thus no overstating the gravity of the choice facing the PAS
delegates during the Muktamar. For them, it is not about who can do
the job better. It is about who symbolises what, and this in and of
itself suggests PAS is a party ill at ease with itself.

1 comment:

Kam said...


Ulama leaderships is back with a vengeance. It is clear to see that Husam's lap dancing with Anwar has caused a stir within the old school ulamas' and the fact that Husam is also tolerant to DAP's behaviour will make him lose a lot of traction at the muktamar. PAS will realise soon enough that power sharing with PKR will prove unteneble.

good luck in Manen Urai hope you and Pemuda can expose all this problems PAS is facing.