Analysts: Without PAS, formal Opposition pact just window dressing

Merdeka Center’s Ibrahim Suffian says that while a common logo could help consolidate Opposition support, this would suffer in the event the more established PAS is also in contention. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 ― Pakatan Harapan’s plan to become an official coalition will not neutralise the threat of multi-corner fights if it excludes PAS, said political analysts.

While the aim of a formal pact that includes DAP, PKR, Amanah and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia would minimise the risk of overlaps among the four, the analysts said the main danger to the Opposition parties’ chances was still contests that include both PAS and Barisan Nasional.

Director of independent pollster Merdeka Center Ibrahim Suffian pointed out that while a common logo could help consolidate Opposition support, this would suffer in the event the more established PAS is also in contention.

“My point is, being an older and large party, PAS has a fairly large following among the Malay electorate. I think aside from the DAP seats, leaders in Pakatan Harapan are deluding themselves if they think they can swing those erstwhile PAS supporters to their side and win in a three-way contest,” he told Malay Mail Online.

“They have to figure a way to accommodate PAS and the other parties. Otherwise their election prospects would be very dim.”

On Monday, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu announced that Pakatan Harapan parties together with PPBM intend to register as a formal coalition with the Registrar of Societies (RoS).

Mohamad Sabu, or better known as Mat Sabu, added the parties also decided to have a common manifesto and logo for elections, but did not state whether the pact will be renamed.

Previous attempts to register Pakatan Rakyat, the predecessor to Pakatan Harapan, with the RoS were unsuccessful.

Political and economics analyst Prof Ho Kee Ping, who was unoptimistic about the chances of formally registering the coalition, also said that contesting under a brand new logo with the general election so close was suicidal.

The danger of novelty was demonstrated last year when Amanah — the new PAS splinter party — struggled for recognition in the two by-elections it contested.

“[If} they do get registered, they die early. Because even if they place a logo of a rabbit or a bus or whatever, rural folks won't know (this),” he said, noting the recognisability of BN’s scales and PAS’s moon.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) Wan Saiful Wan Jan said a possible solution would be to use the logo of one of the existing parties, but conceded that this was likely to face resistance.

“The logo, however, is a tricky one because it is about branding, and selling a new brand is not easy.

“Perhaps using the logo of an existing party would be useful. But of course the question then is which party. This is not an easy problem for them to solve,” he added.

Regardless of the potential pact’s trappings, all three analysts ultimately returned to the futility of a unified Opposition identity without PAS.

The Islamist party is adamant it will not work with DAP, with whom it continues to row over the former’s Islamic goals, or any that work with the former ally. PAS is also set to review its ties with PKR during its muktamar, or annual assembly, next month.

PPBM and PKR, which both seek cooperation with PAS, have refused to write off the Islamist party. Given how much damage PAS could do to the coalition’s chances, their refusal is understandable.

“Firstly, it's too late; secondly, they cannot go against PAS, and without PAS, you're dead,” Ho said.