PAS MUKTAMAR Incumbent PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and his ulama faction have already secured at least 40 percent of the support from the 1,195 party delegates - even before the PAS leadership elections that will take place on Thursday.
Political observer Muhammad Hisommuddin Bakar bases his estimation on the fact that the ulama faction has systematically and successfully taken over the leadership of several divisions to ensure the presence of their own delegates at the PAS muktamar .
Hisommuddin estimates that at least 500 out of the 1,195 delegates are new faces from the pro- ulama faction and that their choice is more or less known.
"With the changes in delegates who will be attending, the composition that is willing to elect progressive leaders and its impact on the party elections too have changed," the Ilham Centre executive director said.
A prominent example Hisommuddin gave is the defeat of former Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin ( photo ) by a relatively unknown cleric for the position of the Kampar PAS division head, which Nizar has held for 16 years.
He said the pro- ulama delegates are expected to use block voting at the muktamar , a strategy that has proven effective at the divisional elections that wiped out their opponents.
This means that the delegates will vote according to grouping, rather than for individuals, to ensure the victory of a particular faction.
"For the elections at the grassroot level, a dichotomy was created where some leaders were labelled jebon (a derogatory term used used in the state of Kedah to label progressives) and another (set of names) for the ulama .
"If delegates vote according to the blocks (based on the list), it will be a total wipeout of the opponents.
"This system has been effective in taking control of the PAS divisions and is likely to work at the PAS central election," Hisommuddin said.
Wipe-out of progressives expected
In the past, party delegates have voted for a good mix of professionals and ulama in the PAS leadership.
The progressive faction in PAS was also slow in countering the systematic takeover by the ulama at the grassroots level, likely out of concern of being viewed as trying to split the party, which has always emphasised on " ulama leadership".
The ulama takeover of PAS, which has carried a message of not bowing to its Pakatan partners, is not likely to bode well for the opposition coalition.
However, said Hisommuddin ( photo ), the delegates were backing Hadi's faction on the belief that the president will not take PAS out of Pakatan.
This, he said, was because a lot was at stake, particularly PAS' role in the Selangor state government, control over mosque committees, government-linked companies and allowances in the Pakatan-ruled states.
"So, that is the irony. They want to be tough with their Pakatan partners but at the same time, they do not want to lose their benefits," he said.
Hisommuddin said only a 'miracle' could help the pro-Pakatan Rakyat faction in PAS to pull off a win at the muktamar .
After 13 years in power, Hadi is for the first time being challenged for the party presidency by Ahmad Awang, an ulama with a pro-Pakatan stance.
The current PAS deputy president, Mohamad Sabu or Mat Sabu ( photo ) as he is widely known, who is popular for leading mass protests, is also facing an uphill challenge to defend his deputy presidency against Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.
Six candidates are vying for the three posts of vice -president - incumbents Salahuddin Ayub and Husam Musa - besides Idris Ahmad, Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, Iskandar Samad and Mahfuz Omar.
The 61st PAS muktamar , at which its central body elections will also take place, goes on for three days with polls taking place on the first day which is Thursday.