The results of Permatang Pasir by-election which saw PAS retain the seat with its sizeable majority intact exposes certain voting patterns which speak more of people’s dislike for BN than any active favouritism for Pakatan Rakyat, or at least, PAS.
This is especially so in the case of ethnic Chinese voters, which made up over a quarter of the total voting population in Permatang Pasir. With the ethnic Malay vote likely split between BN and PAS, the latter could not have won in the way it did without garnering most of the Chinese votes – in fact, analysis of the ballot boxes or “peti undi” in the by-election showed that the PAS candidate won handsomely in Chinese-dominated areas.
To be sure, this pattern is a continuation of what the country saw in the General Elections March last year where for the first time, ethnic Malays went out in large numbers to vote for DAP and Chinese equally so for PAS. I believe more than anything else, political players from both sides of the aisle were surprised at this development and sought, and still seek, to explain it by highlighting various possibilities, anecdotes and theories – but they all boil down to the fact that the voters’ dislike for BN is far larger than any like for PR. In other words, the Chinese who voted for PAS were and for the moment, are, willing to look past PAS’s shortcomings so long as it means kicking BN out. The unholy alliance is exactly that - gravitation towards PR isn’t based on any unity in values, but in loathing for BN. My contention is that this is simply not sustainable – sooner or later PAS’s values will appear too extreme to ethnic Chinese.
I know that some will level the charge that this appears as another instance of a BN supporter greeting an apparent peculiarity with characteristic ignorance and arrogance. I assure you it is not. I am aware of BN’s many weaknesses, but it is also important for ethnic Chinese to realize what PAS is really all about. This is beyond the fact that PR is not coherent; this is about PAS forwarding a vision of the country that is completely at odds with multicultural citizenship, as we know it.
With its religious dogmatism and insistence on an Islamist state, the Chinese community would do well to remember that PAS will always be PAS, and all things considered, it has much more to lose if PAS’s policies were to come into force than what is actually in practice under a BN government.
Outright support for the on again-off again-on again Kartika caning, opposition to almost all concerts of bands from the “evil” West and other instances all point to PAS’s inner being, one that suggests it will always insist for an Islamist state – through Hudud and other measures that may use the name of Islam to threaten even the most basic element of democracy like electing one’s own leader.
The Chinese community knows these. And beyond their dislike for UMNO, I believe they reason they are prepared to cast a vote to someone from a party who would readily interfere in their way of life is because they believe PAS will never be the dominant member of a prospective PR Federal Government. But as time passes PAS leaders are slowly beginning to voice out in public the party opinion of national issues due to pressure from the grassroots. PAS will not want to be seen to kowtow to DAP and I suspect will increasingly show its less-tolerant stripes.
I know this thesis on PAS may appear rich in light of some events that have transpired which show elements within UMNO taking an intolerant stance. But let there be no mistake, PAS's sudden embrace of non-Muslims is little more than a smokescreen designed to seize Federal power, after which it will most definitely unleash the fruits of fundamentalism, which incidentally also lead them to denounce fellow Muslims within UMNO as 'kafirs' - so why should non-Muslims with their 'kafir' - and I use this term with all respect to my non-Muslim brothers and sisters - way of life feel the least bit secure about PAS in power at the federal level?
Here, it is especially pertinent to remind ourselves that beneath the kumbaya-Erdogan-Husam-ist face, PAS is at its core anti-system, filled by hardcore Islamists whose political consciousness is built from the fringes of society through education from "sekolah pondok" and misguided (and misguiding) "madrasahs" that preach Talibanistic decided intolerance of the 'infidels' and the infidel's way of life. These are individuals who genuinely believe it is their duty on earth to cleanse the world of the sins of man's immortality - so they won't think twice about sacrificing "rights" or "democracy" or even changing the Constitution to allow for primacy of Hudud laws in serving their "Godly duties". In its hearts of hearts, PAS is not mainstream - it doesn't come from the mainstream neither does it advocate ideals that are mainstream - and all moderate Malaysians who want a future based on justice, fairness and equality would do well to reconsider voting for Pakatan if it still has PAS in it. BN, at least, can be persuaded to change, whether through genuine design or through the necessity to recapture votes. But PAS on the other hand, is dogmatic. It will not change.
All said, ethnic Chinese voters must wake up to the reality that PAS poses a problem not only to UMNO but to all Malaysians who want to defend the fundamentals of a country that we know will cater to all Malaysians without imposing too much our beliefs of what is right and wrong on other people who may not share out faith. If the community continues to support PAS simply to get back at BN, it will be committing a grave error.