Why is Harapan still dealing with PAS?

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“How easy it is, treachery. You just slide into it.”

- Margaret Atwood, ‘The Year of the Flood’

The question seems obvious but this is Malaysia, or more accurately “Malay” politics, and the answer we are told is complicated but the reality is that Umno still controls the Malay vote and all our talk of a fractured Malay polity is actually a disadvantage to the opposition. Moreover, Umno knows this.

My condemnation of this religious cult (PAS) has nothing do with my perceived anti-Islam stance*. To wit if PAS was only concerned with hudud and maintained its sworn enmity towards Umno, I would have respect for PAS and its ideology - however opposed I am towards it - however, the weasel-like manner in which it has chosen to deal with Umno and Harapan deserves all the opprobrium people can muster.

(*Apropos to my supposed anti-Islam stance, I really like this bit by the Muslim woman who wrote about her support for US president-elect Donald Trump - “We have to stand up with moral courage against not just hate against Muslims, but hate by Muslims, so that everyone can live with sukhun, or peace of mind…”)

Of course, when DAP’s Tony Pua says this: (a) "How do we trust a party that is unprincipled, that only wants its bread to be buttered on both sides and wants to use its partners to attain its own selfish interests?" and then adds this: (b) "However, DAP understands the importance of one-to-one fights in the general elections. That’s why we agreed to give time to those who still want to negotiate with that party...” meaning because one-to-one fights is politically advantageous to us, we do not mind dealing with unprincipled backstabbers, it all gets rather messy and points to the dysfunction of the opposition.

However, I do agree with Pua that it is time to move on, so we can hurriedly forget the ‘PAS for all’ bull crap. Furthermore, former prime minister and now de facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks plainly, referring to anyone who sabotages the Harapan deal is riding on the Umno gravy train.

In addition, the former prime minister is spot on when he said that BN always managed to retain its two-thirds majority not because it was strong but because the opposition was weak. This is an extremely important point and one that the former prime minster did his utmost to encourage when he was leading Umno.

Ever since the opposition became a viable alternative to Umno/BN, pundits have been going on about the split Malay vote. Even Umno invested time and money in consolidating the Malay vote because they know eventually; they will lose the rural heartlands or worse become indebted to Sabah and Sarawak to maintain hegemony.

I would argue that the red-shirt antagonism towards the upcoming Bersih march is not so much a provocation against Chinese community - that is just an added bonus - but rather the worry that this particular Bersih march, openly supported by the Najib refuseniks, would be the spark that lights the fuse to a Malay rebellion against the Umno hegemon.

This is why PAS is going out of its way to disavow Bersih when the most successful Bersih rallies involved the mobilisation of PAS members, the logistical and technical support of its cadres and the polemical speeches of its extremely charismatic speakers.

This is why oppositional Malay power structures like Bersatu are echoing the reformasi line and drawing parallels between the upcoming Bersih march and the single most important event that galvanised the Malay polity, the ejection of the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim from Umno paradise...

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