February 24, 2013
Pakatan’s PM Choice: Steady Does It
by Terence Netto (02-23-13) @ http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: As the prospects of victory at the polls for Pakatan Rakyat brighten – despite what the Intelligence Unit of The Economist says – stories spread which hold that elements within PAS are developing cold feet at the notion of Anwar Ibrahim as Malaysia’s seventh Prime Minister.
The Economist, these days close to being what Time magazine was at one time – an authoritative oracle on the world’s current affairs – has pronounced BN as the likely winner of the 13th general election but the machinations of some elements within PAS suggest serious doubts about the credibility of that prediction – hence their jitters about Anwar as prospective PM and their apparent surreptitious manoeuvres against its possibility.
These elements reputedly want him replaced by someone else, probably by their party’s President Abdul Hadi Awang, or, as some reports have it, even by UMNO MP for Gua Musang, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
The Anwar-doubting elements are said to originate in the Syura Council, the highest policy vetting body of the Islamist party. But we have it on good authority from no less an august member of the council than the party’s spiritual leader, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, that the matter of a replacement for Anwar as Pakatan PM-designate has never been discussed by the council.
Yet, reports on incipient doubt about the Pakatan choice of Anwar as its candidate for PM originate from people who are members of the council.
In other words, the matter of a Pakatan PM-designate other than Anwar has come up by subterfuge and not by substantive motion within the Syura Council.
The matter is being bruited about by that faction of PAS that was said to have engaged in unity talks with UMNO within a day of the stunning results of the 12th general election on March 8, 2008.
That wing was stopped in its tracks largely by the repugnance the idea of unity with UMNO holds for Nik Aziz, the PAS Menteri Besar of Kelantan for the last 22 years.
Pouring cold water on UMNO-PAS pact
Nik Aziz was consistent in throwing cold water on the whole idea of unity every time it came up in the last five years. He argued against the idea on the grounds that PAS’ experience of a spell it endured as an UMNO ally within BN in the 1970s was bitter and that UMNO was not really for Islam.
Because his stature in the party is so high that his stance on a matter of this gravity cannot be countermanded, the idea of unity talks with UMNO could not gain traction within PAS circles. It would be dead in the water every time it came up for air. Nik Aziz’s disapproval whenever the matter was raised ensured that it remained comatose.
Two overt protagonists of the unity talks – former state executive councillor and former Selangor PAS chief, Dr Hasan Ali, and former party deputy president, Nasharuddin Mat Isa – found themselves on the outs with the party when it became evident that they were for the project of unity with UMNO.
Their unpopularity partly stemmed from their espousal of the idea, though they displayed other apparent faults that strained their ties to the party.
Hasan soon got the boot for his pains while Nasharuddin was recently dropped from the powerful Syura Council but remains an outlier in the party.
But clearly the apparent evidence of the unpopularity of the idea of unity talks with UMNO, as suggested by the experience of estrangement it brought its two most visible exponents, has not deterred the idea’s covert supporters within the party.
The surmise is that these supporters are keeping the pot stirring on the matter of an apparent lack of unanimity within PAS about the Pakatan designation of Anwar as its candidate for PM should the Opposition coalition win the general election.
This faction is said to be uneasy with the close ties between secularist DAP and syariah-neutral PKR and fear that this collaboration will redound to the disadvantage of the Islamist agenda of PAS.
The murmurs on Anwar’s unsuitability as PM-designate are being viewed against this backdrop and have gained credence as prospects rise of a Pakatan victory at the polls.
Razaleigh indubitably an UMNO man
Reports that the Anwar doubters have sounded out Razaleigh on the matter of his availability for the role only underscores the pro-unity-with-UMNO inclinations of this faction within PAS.
Razaleigh, despite all his fulminations in recent years against the policies and practices of UMNO which he laments as deviations from the party of old, is indubitably an UMNO man, albeit a nobler version of the grand old party.
In the face of reports of these manoeuvres and goings-on, the pro-Anwar sector of Pakatan which for all intents and purposes composes the dominant part of the coalition, should stay cool and unperturbed.
Pakatan anxiety about the machinations of a faction within PAS would supply grist for UMNO to undermine Pakatan and sow doubt in the electorate’s mind that the opposition is a makeshift coalition cobbled together to achieve Anwar’s prime ministerial ambitions.
The truth is more nearly that Anwar as Pakatan PM-designate is a long established consensus, proposed as early as 1999, before that year’s general election, by the immediate past president of PAS, Fadzil Noor (1989-2002), and endorsed by his successor Abdul Hadi Awang, with the backing of the party’s spiritual head, Nik Aziz, who was also spiritual head when Fadzil was in charge.
Doubts about Anwar by certain elements of PAS are about as likely to pass muster as Razaleigh’s critiques of UMNO are likely to be accepted as conventional wisdom within UMNO. The man is out of place within UMNO just as the Anwar doubters in PAS are out of place within Pakatan, not to mention within PAS.