Saturday, October 16, 2021

Muafakat Nasional on brink of rupture as Umno lays claim to PAS seats for GE15

This time, the Islamist party may break away from its reputation for being 'easy to deal with'.

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Cracks are becoming apparent in Muafakat Nasional, the charter signed in September last year by Umno and PAS when the parties, the country’s largest Malay-Islamic political blocs, were still in the opposition.

“There were clear signs of discomfort during informal conversations on the distribution of seats for the 15th general election,” a source who was central to the signing of the charter 14 months ago told MalaysiaNow.

It is learnt that several federal seats have caused “less than polite” talks between leaders of the two parties, as they attempt to build on what used to be a silent electoral pact between them since the 2018 polls.

In that election, Umno and PAS faced a common enemy, Pakatan Harapan (PH), but failed to avoid three-way fights, resulting in electoral gains for PH on the back of public sentiments against the Barisan Nasional government led by Najib Razak.

Once Umno and PAS were relegated to the opposition, party leaders who had already taken common stands on many issues during the Najib administration ensured that they would not clash in the ensuing string of by-elections.

This resulted in PH’s defeat in Semenyih, Rantau, Cameron Highlands, Kimanis and Tanjung Piai.

Their ties peaked with their historic charter in September 2019 which ended their historic rivalry for the Malay-Muslim vote.

“If Umno remains adamant and puts its candidates in PAS-held constituencies, it will be the end of Muafakat Nasional.”

They also came to an understanding that they would not claim seats which they contested in the 2018 polls.

But early talks on seat distribution in recent weeks involving at least two states show that this understanding has become fragile.

“In Kedah and Terengganu, there have been disagreements over seats,” the source, who is familiar with the talks, told MalaysiaNow.

“Several Umno Supreme Council leaders have been insisting that their party should contest in some seats that PAS won in GE14.

“If Umno remains adamant and puts its candidates in PAS-held constituencies, it will be the end of Muafakat Nasional.”

Some already view the Muafakat Nasional charter as irrelevant given PAS’ historic return to the federal government this year.

The party has also scoffed at repeated calls by some Umno leaders aligned with Najib to turn its back on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

A Kedah PAS source told MalaysiaNow that the aggressive claims to the Islamist party’s seats were made by a group of Umno leaders who hold no position in the current government.

It is understood that Umno has despatched its election director, Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, to negotiate with PAS, with several meetings already underway on the distribution of seats for the 15th general election.

MalaysiaNow is also made to understand that the seats in question had been traditionally won by either Umno or PAS.

In previous general elections, voters in Kedah and Terengganu had switched loyalties between Umno and PAS, which hold nearly equal influence in the Malay heartlands.

The collapse of PH, which led to the creation of Perikatan Nasional in March this year, saw a change of political fortunes for PAS and Umno, both of which became critical to ensuring continued support for Muhyiddin.

PAS, which has a reputation for being a partner that is “easy to deal with”, won 18 of the 158 federal seats it contested in 2018.

This time, it will not easily surrender its territory, especially if faced with a party that depends on the same vote bank.

“Right now, we will wait and see,” said a source in Kedah PAS, which is currently leading the state government.

“If it’s true that Umno is bent on violating the agreement by contesting in PAS areas, we will fight them.”

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