Commentary Politics

Pas’ ambitious Pahang plan looks unrealistic

pas pahang

Shahrum Sayuthi
Written by Shahrum Sayuthi

April 27 2017

PAHANG Pas on Sunday announced a rather ambitious plan to contest at least 30 state, and 10 parliamentary seats in the next general election.

There are 42 state and 14 parliament seats in Pahang of which the Islamist party only contested 21 and six respectively in 2013.

The Pas state commissioner, Rosli Abdul Jabar, said his party has set a high target in Pahang because it is confident of coming to power there after the next polls.

Pahang is basically a Malay-dominated state with mostly rural and semi-urban constituencies, very much like Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis.

Over 70 per cent of about 1.5 million people in the state are Malays. Chinese make up less than 15 per cent, while Indians and others are the rest.

Based on that, the state seems a legitimate target of Pas, whose main support base is mostly made up of Malays living in rural areas.

However, unlike in the other Malay heartland states, Pas has never done well in Pahang, which has remained staunchly Umno.

Despite the opposition’s significant gains in the last two general elections, Pas only managed to win three state (Beserah, Tanjong Lumpur, Kuala Semantan) and one parliament (Temerloh) seats in Pahang in 2013.

In fact, elsewhere where it lost, BN had won with relatively comfortable majority. For parliament seats, BN defeated Pas in Lipis by 3,469 majority, Jerantut (4,532), Maran (6,475), Kuala Krau (6,205) and Rompin (15,114).

Pas information chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi won Pas’ solitary parliament seat of Temerloh by defeating Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who is now with PKR by just 1,070 majority.

The Chinese-dominated DAP, which is now Pas’ bitter enemy in the opposition camp actually did better than the Islamist party.

DAP contested seven state seats (Tanah Rata, Tras, Mentakab, Bilut, Ketari, Sabai, Triang) in Pahang that year and won all of them. It also contested three parliament seats, winning one (Raub) and closely lost two (Cameron Highlands, Bentong).

Based on this track record, Rosli’s claim that his party will soon take over Pahang as it already had in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah at one point or another seems more a statement of bravado rather than based on facts.

That should be so, unless a seismic shift in Malay electorates’ attitude in Pahang rains down in the next general election.

Rosli and his colleagues among the Pahang Pas leadership may be hoping for such, based on the outcome of the Rompin by-election in 2015 where Barisan National’s 15,114 majority two years earlier was slashed to 8,895.

In that by-election, which was called following the passing of Umno’s Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis in a helicopter crash, the percentage of votes which swung to the opposition was estimated at 5.31 per cent.

It may be an impressive figure considering that Rompin had always been an Umno stronghold. However, as the outcome of that by-election may suggest, it was not good enough for Pas to win there. Malays made up almost 90 per cent of Rompin’s electorates.

Even if there were indeed some unhappiness among the Malays in Pahang, such swing of their votes would not likely be more in term of percentage than during that by-election.

Pas should also bear in mind that whatever advances they made in Pahang over the past few years have a lot to do with the fact that it was part of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

Come next general election, if it intends to go on its own as planned, the Islamist party cannot hope the anti-BN votes, wherever it plans to contest, will be solid for it as they were in 2013 and that by-election in Rompin.

It should also be part of the equation that aside from BN, Pas now needs to contend with its former Pakatan Rakyat allies, PKR and DAP as well as the new Amanah and Pribumi Bersatu.

Three-cornered fights in a traditional BN stronghold such as Pahang would not likely be very favorable for Pas or the other opposition parties as proven during the Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar by-elections last year.

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Shahrum Sayuthi

Shahrum Sayuthi