Is this Pas’ hint it wants to go solo?
Zubaidah Abu Bakar
It may put the smile on the faces of the party faithful, who think Pas is now ready to lead and their president will be the next prime minister.
It can also cause uneasiness among its allies.
Pas is the second largest political party in terms of membership after Umno but the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat, in which Parti Keadilan Rakyat and DAP are the other components, is being led by PKR.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is de facto PKR leader and parliamentary opposition leader, has always been accepted as the most likely candidate to be prime minister should Pakatan take over the Federal Government.
While Pas has the biggest network and a well-organised election machinery, the party remains the smallest of the three opposition parties in Parliament, holding 24 of Pakatan Rakyat’s 82 seats. PKR has 31, while DAP, despite being the smallest, has 28 seats.
“Pas is ready to offer itself to lead the change and bear the trust of national leadership in Malaysia’s multiracial society after the 13th general election,” Hadi said in his speech themed “Pas leading change” when opening the party’s 55th muktamar in Shah Alam.
Pas members, now standing close to one million, have long hoped the 57-year-old party would lead the country.
There have been voices from the grassroots that Pas, with its experience and strength, should break away from the opposition alliance, as they believe the party can make it on its own.
Such arguments were heard at last year’s muktamar or general assembly, and is likely to be repeated when delegates debate the president’s speech today.
But the hard-line ulama toned down when pressed by reporters about his plan for Pas to become the opposition’s leading party and towards the post of prime minister if it wins enough seats in the next general election, saying the alliance practised collective leadership.
“The political scenario can change. What’s important is principle and cooperation, not defending any individuals,” Hadi said.
On Thursday, a delegate at the Youth assembly called for Pas to be at the forefront in the opposition coalition.
The delegate, Yasir Mat Desa from Perlis, disagreed strongly with outgoing Pas youth chief Salahuddin Ayub’s suggestion that Pas complement its allies to strengthen the coalition.
“Hadi is setting the direction on how to move ahead in terms of setting higher goals for the next general election,” says Yang Razali Kassim, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.
DAP elections strategist Liew Chin Tong says the overall message of the speech was clear, that Pas is committed to Pakatan Rakyat.
He did not rule out some delegates interpreting it as Pas wanting to be in charge should Pakatan oust Barisan Nasional in 2013.
Yang Razali says: “I think Hadi knows that the political reality is such that Pas has to grow in the context of a multiracial setting. But he seems to want Pas to build up its own strength.”
That Pas is gearing itself up to be the strongest party in the next general election, even to the point of being strong enough to provide national leadership is clear.
What is not clear is whether this aim is to be achieved through the Pakatan opposition coalition, or on its own.