At first assembly since joining government, PAS sets sights on GE15 victory and beyond

PAS Muslimat (Women) chief Nuridah Mohd Salleh speaks during the annual PAS Muktamar in Kuala Lumpur September 11, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
PAS Muslimat (Women) chief Nuridah Mohd Salleh speaks during the annual PAS Muktamar in Kuala Lumpur September 11, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — PAS will hold its muktamar (general assembly) today as a member of the federal government for the first time since 1978 when its brief stint as a Barisan Nasional component ended with expulsion.

The episode was a painful memory for the Islamist party that saw it as a betrayal but its bitterness appeared to have subsided since joining forces with once-rivals Umno after the 2018 general election.

This allowed the Islamist party to join its former nemesis as a ruling party after Perikatan Nasional seized control of the government following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan administration.

And the party knows it is now in a far more advantageous position than in 1974. Today, it controls three states and, according to political analysts, at least half of the share of Malay voters while Umno is now a shadow of its former self.

PAS leaders were quite clear about this. At the respective assemblies of the party’s wings, senior leaders and delegates sought to drive home the importance for it to become more influential in the PN coalition.

Party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, for example, told the Youth wing assembly that PAS was the only outfit that could offer stability, pointing to the continuous bickering on both sides of the political divide.

“We were the only one that held steady and not once did we shake as they fumble and claw at each other,” Hadi said in a short address.

“We offer stability.”

Hadi’s speech likely underpinned the party’s confidence ahead of an expected early general election.

If anything, the speeches delivered during the two assemblies showed that the parties focus was clearly on strategies to face this, which is likely to continue throughout the main congress.

This may entail being more assertive about its Islamic agenda. At the wings’ assemblies, delegates suggested that the party’s effort to “uphold” Islam and its community was still far from satisfactory.

Addressing the Youth muktamar, deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man suggested that PAS will not compromise on its push for Islamic-style governance, even as party leaders have sought to stay away from openly stating that it would pursue an Islamic state.

Tuan Ibrahim also outlined the party’s intention to beef up its social media outreach, an area the party feels it lags behind its peers but is keen on catching up.

Still, this year’s muktamar could see grassroots questioning the central leadership’s decision to align with Umno and its splinter, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Some pointed out that the alliance comes at a cost as these parties have the same targeted voter base.

This point was clearly stressed by the head of the party’s Muslimat (women) wing, Nuridah Mohd Salleh, who stressed at the wing’s muktamar launch that both Muafakat Nasional and PN remains the best political platform to pursue unity of the ummah.

Yet, she also cautioned that each of its members needed to be ready for “tremendous sacrifice” for their cooperation to succeed, an assertion likely referring to the thorny seat distribution talks.

The 66th PAS muktamar will be held for two days in Kelantan.