Two senior leaders from PAS and Bersatu have dismissed a call by Umno’s election chief against working with Bersatu, as negotiations continue among leaders of the three Malay-based parties to find a formula for cooperation at the next polls.
Awang Hashim, who is part of PAS’ Central Working Committee tasked with making important decisions on political alliances and election strategies, is unperturbed by Umno’s Tajuddin Abdul Rahman’s criticism of the Islamist party for working with Bersatu.
Tajuddin, who is among the hawks in Umno who have aired reservations about supporting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, had suggested that PAS violated the Muafakat Nasional charter by becoming a component party of Perikatan Nasional (PN).
“I remind PAS leaders about the importance of fulfilling a promise. They joined PN alongside Bersatu without our agreement,” Tajuddin said in a speech at the Pasir Salak Umno division meeting yesterday.
Muafakat Nasional is a charter of cooperation inked by Umno and PAS in September 2019, when the two parties were in the opposition.
Tajuddin, seen as a staunch ally of former president Najib Razak, had also claimed that two-thirds of Umno division leaders nationwide preferred that the party go it alone at the next polls, although he furnished no details of such a survey.
He said PAS should only work with Umno and not with Bersatu, the party co-founded by Muhyiddin in 2016 after he was sacked from the government over his vocal views on the 1MDB scandal.
But Awang said Tajuddin was never part of negotiations among the three parties in trying to reach an electoral understanding.
“Anyone who is not involved in the negotiations can say whatever they like,” the Pendang MP, who is also the deputy human resources minister, told MalaysiaNow.
He added that the leaders of the three parties are still in talks on avoiding a collision at the next general election.
Echoing Awang, Kelantan Bersatu chief Kamaruddin Mohd Nor said his party and PAS have the right to decide on their allies at the 15th general election.
“It is Umno’s right to work with whichever party. Similarly, PAS has the right to cooperate with anyone it is comfortable with,” Kamaruddin told MalaysiaNow.
Other than Bersatu and PAS, the ruling PN also comprises GPS and several Sabah and Sarawak parties. It was formed in February last year as a platform for parties which lent their support to Muhyiddin to form the government following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan administration.
Umno, despite supporting Muhyiddin with more than 30 seats, has so far decided to stick to Barisan Nasional, where its partners MCA and MIC have two seats each.
Tajuddin, Najib as well as party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, are among Umno leaders who have been vocal in criticising Muhyiddin’s Bersatu, accusing it of sidelining Umno for key goverment posts.
Umno, PAS and Bersatu announced a joint committee in September to discuss seat distribution, hoping to force one-on-one contests with PH.
Last month, Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh, who heads PAS’ influential Ulama Council, told MalaysiaNow that talks on seat distribution between PAS, Umno and Bersatu were “80% resolved” with “small remaining problems between Umno and Bersatu”.
“Between PAS and Umno, we might get a simple majority. But if PAS, Umno and Bersatu combine, we can achieve two-thirds,” Zawawi had said, adding that PAS was prepared to play “peacemaker” to bring Umno and Bersatu closer.
Awang said PAS would work hard in its role as a middleman between the two Malay parties.
“We are not out to aggravate the situation between Umno and Bersatu.
“PAS will keep finding solutions to ensure the three of us can work together in the election.”