KUALA LUMPUR – PAS and DAP’s differences of opinion have of late been dominating the opposition coalition’s political landscape and has even forced Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to step in as mediator.
The Pakatan Rakyat’s hour-long leadership council meeting yesterday at the PAS headquarters here failed to resolve the root of the problems faced by the two parties.
They, however, came up with a decision to defer the discussion of two thorny issues – hudud law and local council elections – to a later date but political analysts are viewing this as merely an interim measure.
They feel that the spirit of tolerance between PAS and DAP is increasingly fading.
JOINT POLICY FAILS TO BIND THREE PARTIES
In 2009, PAS, PKR and DAP announced that their common policy framework, which consisted of four main elements, namely transparency in upholding democracy, developing a sustainable and fair economy, implementing social justice and human development.
The policy also stressed on overcoming religious differences, which had been a source of friction between the Islamist party and secular DAP, as well as creating a comprehensive mechanism to handle cases involving the overlapping of civil and syariah law.
So after six years of being in operation, why has the common policy framework failed to instil a sense of unity and cooperation among the three parties? What are its shortcomings?
Prof Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain, a lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Social Science Studies, said the parties’ respective principles and ideologies constituted the biggest obstacle to their cooperation.
He said while there was less friction between the DAP and PKR as they shared similar principles and ideologies, PAS always ended up as their favourite whipping boy due to the different principles that it espoused.
“I’ve noticed that from 2008 till now, the three parties are only able to cooperate during general elections, that is, in the context of determining candidates. Although in the 2013 general election (GE13) they had fielded their own candidates in certain state seats, the coalition fielded sole candidates in 98 percent of the seats,” he said.
Ahmad Atory said based on his observations, the three parties had failed to concur on many issues, be it national or local.
“Take for example the Selangor Menteri Besar issue. PAS supported Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, while the DAP and PKR supported Mohamed Azmin Ali. Such was the fragility of the pact displayed by the Pakatan Rakyat allies,” he told Bernama.
Che Hamdan Che Mohd Razali, a senior political science lecturer at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) campus in Dungun, Terengganu said the coalition’s ambitious plan to capture Putrajaya in GE13 was a clear indication of why Pakatan Rakyat was formed in the first place, following its success in denying the Barisan Nasional (BN) a two-thirds majority in Parliament during the previous general election.
“The coalition was formed despite past records of conflicts between PAS and DAP after the formation of Barisan Alternatif. They needed the presence of PKR to strengthen their coalition based on the support enjoyed by Anwar and the voters’ dissatisfaction with the BN.
“Looking at this scenario, the policy framework which they formed only involved issues they agreed on but not the core principles of each party. Hence, it’s not surprising that the issues involving local council elections and hudud law have caused a major rift among the three parties,” he said.
UNABLE TO RESOLVE CRISIS
How far can the DAP and PAS resolve their differences for the sake of maintaining the coalition’s solidarity?
Commenting on this, Che Hamdan said it would be a tedious task for the parties to resolve their conflicts. In fact, he added, things may get even more complicated if they became more powerful in future.
“It’s a fact that based on their political principles and ideologies, the two are on opposing sides. What’s the point of gaining power when they are not able to implement their respective party principles,” he said.
Echoing his views was Ahmad Atory, who described the relationship among PAS, DAP and PKR as that of step siblings.
“At the Pakatan leadership meeting yesterday, it was clearly obvious on their faces that the leaders were not feeling comfortable and friendly,” he said.
ABORTING THE PRINCIPLE OF STRUGGLE
PAS has in the past dropped its Islamic nation agenda in favour of a welfare state. The question is, will the party abort its struggle to implement hudud law for the sake of maintaining good ties with its Pakatan partners?
Ahmad Atory believed that this time PAS would not succumb to its ally’s pressure to drop its plan to introduce hudud, which had been the Islamist party’s struggle for years.
He also believed that the DAP would continue to push for local government elections to retaliate against PAS.
“They are not bold enough to give up their respective party’s principles because they don’t want the grassroots to get angry with them. PAS will continue to push for hudud, and DAP for local council polls,” he said.
Che Hamdan said due to the orientation of the issues pursued by the two parties, they would always be subject to heated discussions and debates.
“Hudud, for instance, requires careful and indepth research as it involves legal issues, and so does local government elections. I still think it will take a long time for both to be implemented as they have to go through various processes,” he added. – Bernama