By Mohd Hisham Abdul Rafar
KUALA LUMPUR: The popular saying, “united we stand, divided we fall,” figures prominently in the opposition’s political landscape.
The history of opposition coalitions started with the formation of Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU), followed by Barisan Alternatif (BA) and then Pakatan Rakyat (PR), and they all eventually disintegrated.
Then there were the splinter parties like Semangat 46, which was formed in 1988 following a split in UMNO; and PAS offshoots Parti Hizbul Muslimin Malaysia and Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia, which were formed in 1983 and 1995 respectively. These parties no longer exist as well.
Another PAS splinter party Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa), established in 1977, tried to make a comeback at the 13th general election in 2013 but failed to make an impact.
More recently, PAS suffered a setback when its former deputy president Mohamad Sabu, together with other leaders from the “professional” group who were defeated during the party elections in June, left PAS to form Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).
Amanah, which is now in the process of being registered as a political party, has now joined forces with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP to form Pakatan Harapan (PH), an obvious replacement for PR.
Political analysts say they are hardly surprised at the emergence of the new coalition, considering that former PR allies PAS and DAP were never on the same wavelength.
Last Tuesday, PKR, DAP and Amanah announced the establishment Pakatan Harapan, with PAS left out of the equation.
Taking a peek into the history of PAS-DAP relations, the two tried to cooperate with each other via BA in 1999. Parti Keadilan Nasional and Parti Rakyat Malaysia were also part of BA before they merged to form PKR in 2003.
In 2001, the DAP withdrew from BA, citing differences with PAS over its struggle to establish an Islamic nation.
According to analysts, PKR would now find itself torn between its allegiance for the new pact and its friendship with PAS.
The question now is how PKR is going to “treat” PAS, now that the Islamist party has made it clear that it does not want to have anything to do with the DAP and Amanah.
Senior lecturer at Universiti Teknologi MARA’s Dungun campus in Terengganu Che Hamdan Che Mohd Razali said although PKR may find itself in an uncomfortable position, its decision to become part of PH was “a bold one”.
“It even allowed former PAS leader and MP for Tumpat Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar to cross over to PKR. Such a thing should not have happened at all if you look at it from the angle of political consensus (between PKR and PAS).
“The PKR leadership’s open support of Amanah also appears to show that it is sidelining PAS,” he told Bernama.
On Tuesday, PAS Deputy President Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said in the party’s official website that PKR still remained a partner in Pakatan Rakyat. PAS, however, would not cooperate with either the DAP or Amanah, he added.
PAS Secretary General Datuk Takiyudin had also confirmed the party’s political cooperation with PKR, pointing out that it was a decision made by PAS at its muktamar in June.
Che Hamdan said while PKR has given some clear signals that it needed the support of PAS, it also wanted to be part of a multi-party opposition coalition in order to realise its ambitions.
WILL THE NEW PACT SURVIVE?
Several political analysts have in the past predicted that Pakatan Rakyat may face the same fate as BA and APU. Does Pakatan Harapan have any chance of surviving in this nation’s political arena?
A lecturer with Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Department of Government and Civilisation Studies Asso Prof Mohd Izani Mohd Zain said like PR, the new pact too was a loosely-formed coalition unlike the Barisan Nasional (BN).
“Unless it is structured properly, Pakatan Harapan may disintegrate easily. This is why PKR has to make a firm stand on its relationship with PAS,” he told Bernama.
Che Hamdan, meanwhile, said he was still trying to figure out if PR still existed.
“In the eyes of DAP and Amanah, PR is no more but for PAS, the coalition still exists. In fact, the composition of the Selangor government shows that PR exists.
“In the context of the latest developments, the opposition leadership is trying to regain public support by forming Pakatan Harapan to allow DAP and Amanah to work with PKR.
“Like what had happened during the APU and Gagasan Rakyat era, history is repeating with two opposition pacts in place,” he said.
AMANAH SUCCEEDS IN CAUSING SPLIT IN PAS
According to Che Hamdan, one clear takeaway from the political developments was that Amanah, under the helm of Mohamad Sabu, had succeeded in creating a split in PAS, in terms of support from members.
“It has caused some panic in PAS, and its leaders are now trying to give the impression that party membership is increasing and that it is organising major programmes like HARAP, which took place in Dungun last week. But all that is merely a reaction to the threat posed by Amanah,” he said.
He added that it was still too early to gauge whether or not Amanah would be a worthy replacement for PAS.
The split in PR started after the DAP severed ties with PAS in Sabah and Sarawak following the hudud issue. Later, the party decided to cut ties with PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang but maintain its cooperation with the party.
During its 61st muktamar in June, the PAS Dewan Ulama unanimously passed a resolution to sever the party’s ties with the DAP, but chose to remain a member of PR.
On June 16, DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng announced that PR did not exist any longer. He had said that PAS’ resolution to end ties with the DAP had effectively “killed” the coalition.
Then on June 17, PKR President Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail admitted that PR no longer functioned as a formal entity.