Is It too late for PAS to regain support from non-Muslims?

It is too late for PAS to regain the trust of non-Muslim voters, who see their recent actions as a betrayal, analysts have said, echoing the sentiments of its senior leader who lamented that the Islamist party will never regain its non-Muslim support.

They said that what former PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu told The Malaysian Insider in a recent interview, had a lot of truth in it, adding that there was nothing the Islamist party could do now to get back support of the non-Muslims.

In fact, PAS will see its support dwindle not only from the non-Muslims, but even moderate Muslims, said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

“The ulama faction of PAS is pushing the party too far into conservatism. They will not even gain traction from the moderate Muslims in the country. It will be difficult for this group to support PAS,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“Hardcore DAP voters, too, will not vote for PAS in the next general election.”

Independent researcher, Ilham Centre head Mohamad Hisomudin Bakar said PAS has been losing a significant amount of support and trust of the people since the Selangor menteri besar crisis, followed by its internal crisis and the recent decision to cut ties with DAP.

“These issues will not only affect non-Muslim votes, but we dare say that young voters, civil servants and non-partisan voters who voted for PAS under the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) banner in the last election will not be returning.

“In our opinion, even if PAS made a U-turn on its decisions, such as the one to sever ties with DAP, it will not be able to restore the support of non-Muslims to what they enjoyed in the last GE. This is the challenge of the new party leadership.”

PAS, at its muktamar or annual congress earlier this month, accepted a motion to sever ties with DAP without debate.

This was after its party polls, which saw leaders from its progressive faction wiped out by the ulama class.

Mohamad, fondly known as Mat Sabu, was also one of the casualties. In the interview published today, he painted a bleak future for the Islamist party.

“Non-Muslims are disappointed and broken-hearted by the whole situation.

“Furthermore, PAS is now led by personalities from the east coast who rarely came into contact with Malaysians of other races and faiths,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Penang Institute analyst Dr Wong Chin Huat said what was disturbing for both non-Muslim and moderate Muslim voters was how PAS seemed to have changed its position after the election.

“It’s uncertainty and betrayal. You don’t know what you bargained for if a party can change its position contingently. While it is true that PAS has never abandoned its agenda to introduce shariah criminal law, when it campaigned in 2008 on the slogan ‘PAS for all’, the understanding is that it will not pursue that agenda and instead, it will work with PKR and DAP to end Umno’s rule.

“If PAS Kelantan has announced its intention to push for its Syariah Criminal Code, many voters would have abandoned not only PAS, but by association perhaps PKR and DAP as well,” he said.

Hisommudin agreed, noting that PAS’s slogan “PAS for all” was one of two reasons non-Muslims had supported the Islamist party, which was successful in removing the negative connotation that it was an extreme, radical and backward party.

“Former spiritual leader, the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz, was also seen as friendly to the non-Muslims and was seen as an element of national unity to PAS.

“After his demise, PAS is seen to have changed its stand and its direction seems to go in a direction different from what Tok Guru had built.

“This PAS is seen to be conservative, unfriendly to non-Muslims and in conflict with its PR partners – DAP and PKR.”

The other factor, Hisommudin said, was because of their total rejection of the Barisan Nasional government that has been tainted with corruption, power abuse, mismanagement of public funds and more.

PAS, Khoo said, should remember that its success in the last general election at certain predominantly non-Muslim areas was because of its membership in Pakatan Rakyat.

“In a number of mixed-race seats, which has traditionally been PAS’s weakness, they were still able to win as they were helped by the confidence that PAS was part of PR.

“At least in more than a third of the seats they have won were in mixed areas. They have also not done well on their own, looking at history. They have always done better when in a coalition with different races.”

PAS will eventually become a non-player in the west coast, even in constituencies that have more Muslim voters, said Wong.

“PAS won 13 out of 23 parliamentary seats in the west coast in the 2008 election. This dropped to seven out of 21, mainly because it lost five seats in Kedah due to the former MB’s unpopularity and in-fighting.

“In the next election, it will likely lose all these 13 seats. If we look back at history, for 1990, 1995 and 2004, PAS won six to seven seats and all were from Kelantan and Terengganu.

“Even in 1999, when PAS benefited from the Reformasi wave, 17 out of 27 seats PAS won were from the two north eastern states,” he said.

Hisommudin echoed similar sentiments, quoting a research carried out by Ilham Centre, which showed that PAS will be totally wiped out by non-Muslim voters in the next election.

“It will be difficult for it to restore the confidence that it had lost. Their actions in the muktamar saw them making flip-flop decisions, inconsistent and have lost their credibility and integrity when they refused to give up posts in DAP-led Penang.

“PAS should have maintained their momentum of support with the non-Muslims that was given to them in the last general election and concentrated on bringing down Umno. This was the formula that they should have used.

“But what we see is there is no effort to take care of the political profits they got through PR, no fight in attacking Umno and no strategy in winning the hearts of Malay voters,” he said. – June 19, 2015.

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