Monday, March 1, 2021

One foot in the grave for Umno-PAS pact after Zahid hints at support for Anwar

PAS might just leave the year-old pact if the Umno president does not provide an adequate explanation.

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Just over a year after its inception, the Muafakat Nasional (MN) alliance between Umno and PAS, formed to strengthen Malay political unity in the country, could be on the verge of collapse following Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s expression of support for Anwar Ibrahim in his bid to topple the Perikatan Nasional government.

What could be perceived as cracks in the cooperation between the country’s biggest Malay-based parties have already begun to show, with PAS today demanding an explanation for Zahid’s statement that MPs are free to join Anwar if they want.

Analyst Jeniri Amir, a former professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said there were already doubts among PAS leaders about Zahid, who was among Anwar’s strongest allies during their time in Umno in the 1990s.

He said speculation about Umno MPs from Zahid’s faction lending their support to Anwar further exacerbated the situation for MN.

“It’s not impossible if Umno does not give a convincing explanation, because PAS will respond,” he told MalaysiaNow.

“These are the seeds of crisis,” he added. “It will be followed by conflict and the fall of MN.”

MN was inked on Sept 14 last year, with Umno and PAS burying their decades-old rivalry in the name of Malay political power, which they said had declined in the wake of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) ascent to federal power in the 2018 polls.

The PH government collapsed in February after losing its majority in Parliament with the exit of MPs from Bersatu and PKR.

On Wednesday, Anwar announced that he possessed a “strong and formidable” majority to form the federal government.

“With this, the government led by Muhyiddin Yassin has collapsed,” he added.

Shortly afterwards, Zahid said MPs from Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) were free to support Anwar in his bid to oust Muhyiddin from Putrajaya.

Muhyiddin himself maintains that he is the legitimate prime minister, saying Anwar must prove his claim through the process laid out in the Federal Constitution.

Several senior Umno leaders have since dismissed Anwar’s claim as “sandiwara” or theatrics.

Jeniri said PAS would only be satisfied with a thorough explanation from Zahid, adding that the Islamist party would be justified in its demand as Zahid’s statement went against the Umno-PAS charter.

“Now, the responsibility to provide that explanation lies on the shoulders of the Umno president,” he said.

Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia foresees PAS leaving the Muafakat pact if Umno fails to adequately explain Zahid’s remark.

“And Umno will have to answer PAS about this latest situation,” he told MalaysiaNow.

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