Commentary Politics

Amanah could lose its way

Mahathir's presence in the two constituencies didn't translate into enough votes for the opposition to trouble the Barisan Nasional.

Mahathir's presence in the two constituencies didn't translate into enough votes for the opposition to trouble the Barisan Nasional.

Written by Aziz Hassan

“Mid-week Notes” — A weekly column — 22/06/16

IT’S early days yet but already there are signs helping us to draw a trail of where the country’s newest political party Parti Amanah Negara or Amanah is heading to.

The party formed later last year and led by former PAS firebrand Mohamad Sabu or Mat Sabu, who’s surrounded be several other former PAS elected representatives and grassroots leaders, first tested the waters in the Sarawak state election in April.

It contested 13 seats and lost all, with nine of its candidates losing their deposits.

PAS, the party Amanah targets to put into oblivion, did not do any better, its representatives losing their deposits in seven of 11 constituencies. But if Amanah thought Sarawakians were ready to support it and dump PAS, Sabu and friends got it very, very wrong.

Amanah contested five seats where PAS also put up candidates and in most of the five, Amanah only received about 25 or 30 per cent of the votes secured by PAS.

Going by these results, it makes more sense for either party to stop trying to infiltrate Sarawak, the way the ruling Barisan Nasional shouldn’t waste its time, effort and money by trying to win over voters in places like Seputeh or Kepong.

Following Sarawak, Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar provided another opportunity for PAS and Amanah to gauge its support.

In the two Parliamentary seats which BN did exceptionally well and against many predictions by analysts who said that the bad news linked to Prime Minister and BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor would turn the tables against BN, to win by a majority multiple times more than what it achieved in the general election in 2013, the two parties in opposition again put up candidates.

In Kuala Kangsar PAS received 801 more votes than Amanah while in Sungai Besar it was the reverse, with Amanah being given 707 more votes.

But almost all political commentators said that Amanah would not have received so many votes had it not been for the DAP’s help.

Herein lies the problem for the party that is said to comprise liberal and progressive leaders who had had enough of the harder stance in PAS, although that was one party they had been with for so many years. Amanah also cannot just drop the Islamist component of the party because that’s an integral part of its brand.

Which leads to the question “Where exactly does Amanah hope to find support and from who?”

A liberal and progressive Islam doesn’t quite fit into what we have been seeing in Malaysia since recent years.

Also, the more liberal amongst the Malays tend to lean towards a party like PKR, with a few, only a few, finding solace in the DAP and Gerakan.

Those who have been in politics long enough are also aware that everything is different in a general election when compared to a by-election. In the former parties with limited resources will find itself spreading thin.

In the case of Amanah, it looks like it will only be focused on taking on PAS in the next general election and during that time the DAP too would be busy with its own campaign and will have less time for Amanah.

Given these circumstances it would take a brave betting man to put his money on Amanah at the next polls.

And what about the Mahathir factor?

Almost every press report and commentary would allude to his influence as an elder statesman and never fails to assume that his words carry weight.

The former prime minister made his rounds in the two constituencies during the by-elections, usually accompanied by DAP leaders and those from Amanah.

The answer to the above question should be in the results somewhere.






About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.