Top Muslim political forces discuss partnership

Malaysian Muslim long-ruling party to collaborate with opposition party that broke up from its pact which could result in their domination of Malaysian politics

Photo by: AA (Archive)
Photo by: AA (Archive)

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak

A Malaysian opposition party that broke up from its pact has declared its intention to bury the hatchet with the long-ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), reviving enduring ideas of an Islamic party coalition in the country.

An official from the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), the country’s second largest Islam-based political movement, confirmed to Anadolu Agency Monday its willingness to cooperate – suggesting the possibility of a partnership that a former minister says could result in the parties dominating Malaysian politics.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Najib Razak -- president of UMNO, the major party in the National Alliance that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957 – had mooted PAS’s readiness to make peace and collaborate for “the benefit of Muslims” in the country.

Takiyuddin Hassan, PAS secretary general, told Anadolu Agency on Monday that his party prefers to uphold Islamic principles in determining the future of Muslims, who account for up to 70 percent of 30 million Malaysians.

"What has Islam thought us? It teaches us to forgive and forget... UMNO and PAS cannot be exempt from this teaching,” he said. “Despite political differences, we are prepared to collaborate with UMNO for the benefit of the ummah [community]."

Without divulging about a potential merger between the two political giants, he said cooperation would ensure that the importance of Muslims in Malaysia would be guarded.

He added that the party was currently explaining the UMNO collaboration to its members, as some key members had expressed uneasiness about an alliance.

"One has to understand that we are an opposition party and collaboration with a ruling party would be new to our members. Soon they would understand and [agree with] the party's leadership," he added.

During his opening speech at the UMNO General Assembly this month, Razak had expressed that his party is open to re-negotiating with PAS on potential collaborations.

The premier said after leaving the opposition coalition earlier this year, PAS had been showing positive signals toward a partnership with UMNO, particularly with its decision to not join other opposition parties in rejecting Razak's 2016 Budget in parliament last month.

"In the budget vote, they abstained from voting against the budget. Although they did not vote in our favor, they did not reject it either,” he said. “These are encouraging signs to me.”

PAS has severed all political ties with the country's new opposition alliance, Hope Pact, due to differences in the implementation of Islamic law in one of the opposition-ruled states.

The party's president, Abdul Hadi Awang, has also remained silent on various controversies revolving around Razak, including the discovery of a $700 million “political donation” in his personal bank accounts and debt-ridden state investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

While UMNO holds 88 seats in the House of Representatives, PAS – which controls the administration of northeast Kelantan state and has strong footholds in neighbouring Terengganu and Perak – has 14 parliamentarians in the lower house.

Political veteran Dr. Chua Soi Lek, who served as health minister between 2004-2008, told Anadolu Agency on Monday that a successful UMNO-PAS collaboration would result in Muslim leaders taking control of the country's political power.

He said the collaboration would secure the ruling National Alliance another victory in the 13th general election due in 2018, as Malay-majority parliamentary constituencies would vote for them.

"The UMNO and PAS collaboration would definitely win various West Malaysian states, and subsequently the federal government,” added Soi Lek, a former president of the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second largest party in the National Alliance.

"The non-Muslim parties in the National Alliance meanwhile will have to scratch a living on the fringes of the political mainstream which would be dominated by the duo."

PAS was founded in 1951 by Muslim clerics in the UMNO and currently has more than 1.1 million members.

After its party election in June, an elite group within PAS separated to form a new multi-racial party -- National Hope Party – that replaced PAS in the new federal opposition pact.

UMNO meanwhile, was founded in May 1946 and has more than 3.5 million members as of this year.