Trust issues, ideological clashes stumbling blocks to Pas - Umno alliance

Rizanizam Abdul Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR: Analysts are divided on whether the Umno and Pas alliance would work out in the long run, following the opposition parties’ three in a row defeat in the Sungai Kandis, Balakong and Seri Setia by-elections recently.

Three of the five political analysts contacted by the New Straits Times Press said ideological differences would be the key stumbling block to a successful long-term collaboration between the two parties.

They also noted that the success of such a pact hinges on the grassroots who need to be on the same page and share the opposition bloc’s agenda, but are unable to due to differing ideologies.

Political analyst Dr Rusdi Omar said Umno and Pas have to openly discuss their issues and goals so that the grassroots from both sides can see eye to eye.

“This means they cannot go into a haphazard alliance just to canvas votes in a by-election and after that go back to square one,” he said.

Rusdi, who is an associate professor at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said an alliance based only on Malay and Muslim issues is not easily accepted due to Malaysia’s multiracial landscape. The alliance, he said, should instead focus on people’s problems such as cost of living, governance and corruption.

Rusdi was responding to Umno Youth deputy chief Khairul Azwan Harun’s statement that the collaboration between Umno and Pas has failed, given the three recent by-election defeats.

The senator was also quoted as saying that the basis on the pact was ineffective as people do not want an opposition which openly states that it solely focuses on the interests of Malays and Muslims.

Khairul had said that Umno has to instead study the approach used to attract support and votes from non-Malay voters. Umno, he said, can work with Pas when it involves laws and policies on interests but the differences in ideology have to be retained.

Umno, he added, was built on the principle of working together and moderation not nationalism and racism.

Analyst Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani concurred with Khairul’s views, saying that times have changed.

He said Umno is now seen as a far right party which has scared off most Malaysians, who have mostly moderate leanings.

“This is very different from Pakatan Harapan which is favoured because of their political branding that is open and brings about an agenda of freedom apart from being friendly to the business community and civil society,” said the Universiti Utara Malaysia professor.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said the trials and tribulations that Umno and Pas suffered in the recent by-elections showed that the parties still have to deal with trust issues.

“It looks like the high-ranking leaders can see eye to eye but their supporters at the lower levels cannot accept them fully.

“If they want a better outcome without hoping for instant but instead lasting success, the political collaboration has to change to a political struggle,” he said.

Sivamurugan added that despite the parties’ sincerity in forming a collaboration, it does not mean that they would be easily accepted as an opposition bloc.

Meanwhile, Assoc Prof Dr Kartini Aboo Talib @ Khalid, who is deputy director the Institute of Ethnic Studies in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said the collaboration could work if they are on the same page.

“There must be a focus on Pas supporters who want an emphasis on morality and Barisan Nasional supporters who have a pro-Malay agenda.

“Both these groups have placed their trust that a Malay leadership is needed to lead Malaysia.”

Universiti Malaya’s Associate Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the alliance is still in its early stages and needs more time.

‘The parties definitely have a difference in ideology and new cooperations can be made on issues related to laws and interests.

“Both parties still need time to shed their trust issues as they have been traditional enemies since Pas exited BN 41 years ago in 1977.” © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd