Three things we learnt from: The Umno-PAS union

Ida Nadirah Ibrahim
Umno president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi (second left) and PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang (second right) at the Himpunan Penyatuan Ummah held at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 — Umno and PAS finally signed their joint charter at the Himpunan Penyatuan Ummah 2019 yesterday, which for the first time saw a sea of supporters from both parties flooding the Umno headquarters here.

About 20,000 members were expected at the rally, although the actual numbers may have exceeded the target as the supporters had not only filled Putra World Trade Centre, but also were seen lingering by the road outside.

The charter, which only has five core points, is centred on unifying the ummah (Muslim community) to harmonise multiracial Malaysia.

It remains to be seen, however, if the union of the two parties will resonate with a wider demographic beyond the Malay-Muslim vote bank.

Here are the three things Malay Mail learnt from covering the historic event:

Umno and PAS supporters are seen outside the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2019. ― Pictue by Miera Zulyana

PAS and Umno downplay racism allegations

Leaders from both parties took great pains to refute claims that their formal union was centred on racist ideals, insisting that non-Muslims will not be excluded from this political bloc. 

Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had in his speech said that the union should be seen as a solution to the current issues faced by the country and to building a peaceful, harmonious Malaysia where its people are well taken care of.

The youth wings of the two parties had also claimed that they would champion the interests of non-Malays and had instead accused Pakatan Harapan (PH) of being “racist” to counter the criticism.

This is despite the fact that the two parties have attracted mostly Malay hardliners, and PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang’s insistence that the Malay-Muslim cooperation was more compatible with Malaysia and that it should be governed by Muslims.

PAS and Umno supporters attend the Himpunan Penyatuan Ummah at Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

It’s all about the numbers, thanks to PAS

There were significantly more PAS supporters at the rally on Saturday, with some even sleeping on the floor of PWTC, signalling that the party has strong support from its grassroots members. 

They will be key to implementing the alliance on the ground.

PAS grassroots have traditionally been the backbone of any major event or rally. When the Islamist party was part of the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat, its members were mobilised to ensure the success of previous Bersih 2.0 rallies. 

And yesterday’s show of force was crucial for the two parties to ‘sell’ the narrative that the Malay vote base supported the union, as this will likely sway the hearts and minds of other fence-sitters who are looking for a viable alternative to PH. 

Abdul Hadi had pointed out that the Himpunan Penyatuan Ummah itself was the brainchild of grassroots members whom he said were proactive and aware of current political developments. 

PAS and Umno supporters attend the Himpunan Penyatuan Ummah at Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PAS and Umno need to work to get the support of other races

Although Ahmad Zahidi said that both MCA and MIC had no objections to the PAS-Umno marriage, it is too early to tell whether the two non-Malay Barisan Nasional component parties will be able to gain the support of their members for the union. 

This is because both MCA and MIC were not prominently featured in the rally, except for the youth wings of the parties showing their support for the Umno-PAS alliance.

Ahmad Zahid had also said that the alliance will be formalised at the BN supreme council soon.

Though it appears to have the overwhelming support of Umno and PAS members, the union has yet to prove it is an inclusive one.

The joint charter only lists five core points, which are quite vague, and other races were noticeably absent from the rally.

Also. Umno and PAS will need to clearly outline just how their planned Muslim-majority government-in-waiting will include non-Muslims and be fair and just to them.

If they fail to do so, then PH’s depiction of them as being a conservative, ring-wing movement will be hard to rebut or refute.

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