Commentary Politics

PAS & Amanah head for first showdown in peninsula

Maybe Mahathir should take up Tan Sri Shahrir Samad's suggestion for him to form a political party to prove he has the support of the people.

Maybe Mahathir should take up Tan Sri Shahrir Samad's suggestion for him to form a political party to prove he has the support of the people.

Written by Aziz Hassan

Mid-week NotesA weekly column

WHEN several PAS leaders and those elected by the people in the 13th general election decided to break away after the middle of last year to form a new party, many commentators read that as a divide between a hardline faction and a more liberal, progressive group.

Soon after it was officially registered as Parti Amanah Negara or Amanah last September, it immediately claimed to have 50,000 members, although not many can recall hearing reports about people queuing in droves to join the party.

Amanah immediately had six Members of Parliament, all of whom won GE13 as PAS candidates and ideally should have resigned as MPs to test the support for them under a new banner.

Since that breakaway, there have been declarations about how Amanah was going to consign PAS into oblivion, in Selangor, Kelantan and god knows where else.

Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad predicted that PAS would be dead meat in Selangor in GE14, placing it back to where it was one general election before – without any seat in either the state assembly or a parliamentary representation in the state.

Amanah president Mohamad Sabu boldly declared that his party was ready to take over from PAS in Kelantan, adding that it was necessary to save the Islamist government formed by the late PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

It’s difficult to agree with Sabu on this because Kelantan, as it was under Nik Aziz and in its current situation, simply doesn’t fit into what we know to be Amanah’s political thinking. Remember too that the old man’s son, Nik Abduh, hasn’t shown signs that he would dump PAS to cross over to Amanah.

In politics, just as in life in general, talk is cheap. It can be loud and yet hollow. What will convince people of how much support a political party has is best seen from an election result.

Which brings us to the by-elections for the parliamentary seats of Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar this Saturday. That will be the first opportunity in the peninsula for Amanah to prove that it is the heir apparent to PAS as the country’s dominant Islamist party.

Some say that the progressive minded Amanah is what the people prefer and that it has several leaders who can easily win more votes than whoever PAS puts up as election candidates.

No more talk, no more speculation. Saturday is when it all starts. Lose one or both and Amanah may end up like many other breakaway factions which had a short shelf-life.

Also reported widely by the press was the decision by former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to go on the campaign trail in both constituencies, where he shared the same platform with opposition politicians like the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang.

Mahathir is 90 and Malaysian Muslims do have an opinion about what they think a man that age should be spending more of his time on but the man who was in Umno for three phases – being sacked once and quitting on his own accord twice – clearly still has the energy to actively indulge in politics.

His 22 years as prime minister and just about the same length of time as Umno president would be an asset to any political party. Since some months ago Mahathir has also been pally-pally with fellow ex-Umno man Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, a former fierce critic of his.

After Umno Zaid joined PKR, found faults with it and quit, and then formed KITA and led it until he quit that too in 2012. Together Mahathir and Zaid could be a formidable political pair.

Maybe they should give a serious thought to the suggestion from Umno parliamentarian Tan Sri Shahrir Samad for Mahathir to form a party if he has the numbers, as claimed two months after the Mahathir Declaration was launched. The time is right, says Shahrir, for Mahathir to prove that he has the support of the people.

That would be real action and not just talk.

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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.