No opposition coalition can hope to defeat Barisan Nasional without having PAS on board, according to political analyst Faisal S Hazis of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Merdeka Centre Director Ibrahim Suffian.
They agreed with former law minister Zaid Ibrahim that the opposition should move beyond racial and religious politics, but they said that was an ideal Pakatan Harapan and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) could not afford to cling to if they were hoping to win the coming general election.
In a speech on Monday night, Zaid urged opposition parties to focus on fundamental principles rather than “quick fix” solutions. He said they should keep PAS out of any opposition coalition.
Faisal, speaking to FMT, said Zaid’s suggestion was not realistic in the context of winning an election.
“To defeat BN, you need an alternative to Umno, one that caters to the needs of the Malays, and you have to keep in mind that those needs are diverse by geography.”
As an example, he said, the needs of the Malay community in the south, such as Johor, were different from the needs of the Malay community in the East Coast.
“Umno is very diverse in its struggles,” he said. “No party can challenge its dominance in the Malay heartland, aside from PAS.”
The challenge for the opposition, he said, was bringing PAS back into an opposition alliance while achieving a consensus on what to do to move forward, including what narrative to sell to Malaysian voters.
Ibrahim gave a similar opinion. “While politicians need to uphold principles, they also have to mesh those principles with realities on the ground,” the Merdeka Centre head told FMT.
“Sometimes you have to work with parties that don’t fully agree with your agenda but may provide you with victory.”
He said Zaid needed to keep in mind that PAS might have a sizeable support and this meant that the opposition parties needed to make compromises to improve the chances of their beating BN.
According to Zaid, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition fell apart because it was based on convenience rather than shared principles.
He also commented on PPBM chief Muhyiddin Yassin’s efforts to bring PAS to the negotiating table to ensure a one-to-one fight against the BN.
“This idea of pursuing a one-to-one fight is being perpetrated by those who want to be PM,” he said. “What they should be doing is canvassing for a one-to-one fight based on the political beliefs of equality, of non-discrimination, and an agreement to uphold the dignity of all Malaysians.”
Sheith Khidhir Bin Abu Bakar and Robin Augustin