Can ulama-dominated PAS Youth reach out to young voters?

The newly elected PAS Youth leaders appear to be no match for their Umno counterparts in terms of credibility, capability, and attracting support from young voters – a crucial vote bank in the next general election, an analyst said.

The recent elections for the Islamist party’s Youth wing saw the ulama faction take over the leadership at the expense of the “professionals and progressives” and the challenge they face now is trying to appeal to the nation’s youth.

The strained ties between PAS, DAP and PKR at the national level and the fact that the PAS top leadership is dominated by individuals from the east coast, only worsens matters.

“Based on my observations of the PAS Youth and PAS Muslimat congress, they appear to be rather unprepared in competing against Umno,” said Ilham Centre’s executive director, Mohamad Hisomuddin Abu Bakar.

The research outfit also said the new leaders of PAS Youth have no experience in preparing for the 14th general election.

“Those responsible for seat allocation between the component parties of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have been sidelined.

“The PAS Youth line-up mostly comprises those who were only filling up the ceramah slots before the elections.”

Hisomuddin said PAS Youth was particularly weak in handling technical matters, such as psychological warfare and campaigning.

“They have not been tested. They must prove themselves. They say the ulama can be as good as the progressives, but we’ll see.”

In the recent party polls, Suhaizan Kaiat lost the PAS Youth presidency to challenger Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, the Pasir Mas MP and son of the late spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

The rest of the professional faction also lost at the PAS Youth polls to the conservative class, who are aligned to party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

Among those defeated at the top leadership level were former deputy president Mohamad Sabu, former vice-president Salahuddin Ayub, and former central executive committee member Khalid Samad.

Last week, the ousted PAS professionals organised a large gathering and ceramah in Muar, Johor, and raised the possibility that they would form a new party to ensure cooperation between PR continues.

Meanwhile, Umno Youth exco member Ibdillah Ishak said PAS Youth did not pose a threat to them.

“PAS Youth all seem to be from the ulama camp. I believe a political party needs to be progressive. Whether from Umno or PAS, we must walk the middle path,” he said.

“Umno Youth are definitely walking the middle path. We fight for the dignity of the Malays and serve all Malaysians.

“Umno Youth focuses on politics that is based on serving and fighting for all Malaysians.”

The Umno Youth Social Media Bureau chairman added that PAS Youth’s direction was unclear since Nik Abduh took over the helm.

“I don’t see PAS Youth as a competition. PAS Youth does not focus on national issues and the people’s concerns.”

Ibdillah also wanted to know what Nik Abduh had done for the youth in his constituency and Kelantan, and pointed to his track record.

“Are the youth of Malaysia counting on Nik Abduh to bring change to their lives. What is Nik Abduh’s track record in terms of offering solutions to the younger generation’s problems?”

However, PAS Youth vice-president Khairil Nizam Khiruddin (pic) defended the wing, and told The Malaysian Insider that they planned to appoint new faces among the professionals to lead their working committees.

“The appointments will be based on merit and their expertise,” Khairil, an engineer, said.

He said PAS Youth’s main approach in tackling public issues was to engage with the people, adding that  they planned to go down to the ground to gain more feedback during the fasting month.

But Hisomuddin said PAS Youth leaders failed to represent the Malaysian youth’s aspirations.

“There are weaknesses in the PAS Youth leadership, when the elections director has yet to meet their representatives from each state.

“They say the professional faction is taking a wait-and-see approach after the negative labels given to them during the recent polls,” he said.

“The conservative faction will face difficulty forming excos in the state, never mind at the national level.”

But he added that PAS Youth’s limitations would not be a problem if they worked together with Umno.

“But we know Umno will never give up its stronghold seats for PAS.” – June 23, 2015.

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