Hadi loses his gamble
The tides of recent political events have left PAS as an afterthought in the grand picture of Malaysian politics. Having refused to officially back the Citizens’ Declaration, Abdul Hadi Awang is left adrift as the anti-Najib forces begin realigning along Mahathir Mohamad’s new battle lines.
As an opposition party unwanted by most of the people in Pakatan Harapan, PAS has been forced to turn to the virtually unknown Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia and renounce its hudud drive in the hope of getting the non-Malay vote. Hadi’s pride must have taken quite a beating from this. One must remember that the new alliance was announced after the PAS grassroots had unequivocally told him that an alliance with Umno was out of the question.
Hadi’s current approach of “opposition through advice” as far as the Najib government is concerned will not resonate with voters in the run up to GE14. As Mahathir’s new movement crystallises into force, there will be little left for PAS and its new ally.
The formation of Amanah filled the vacuum for a moderate Islamist party, and given that Amanah’s leaders are more comfortable with mature, thoughtful discussion of issues, PAS’ scramble back to the centre will not compare well with its splinter’s position. For one, PAS’ almost histrionic tone throughout the Pakatan Rakyat breakup was off-putting for many supporters, and even fewer are inclined to support a pro-Umno direction.
Most of us can agree that PAS will inevitably run back towards fundamentalism, and this new alliance with Ikatan doesn’t represent a paradigm shift for Hadi and his ulama cohorts. If anything, this appears to be a marriage of even greater convenience than the original Pakatan coalition. PAS now claims to have the partnership of a multi-ethnic party without having to deal with all the squeezing for space that it had to in Pakatan.
To assume voters will fall for such a facile move is to invite ridicule. Hadi will have a lot more work to do on the ground to convince his people that this is indeed the better direction to take before he can begin impressing an agenda upon the party. And if this new coalition is seen as too BN-friendly, the grassroots may decide that between the devil and the deep blue sea, perhaps Amanah is the better option.
What a change a year makes. A year ago, Hadi was at the height of his powers and he could use his will to bring to end the strongest opposition coalition in Malaysian history. Now, as greater rumblings happen below the surface, Hadi finds himself a bit player in the battle between Najib’s government and all the forces arrayed against him. He’s looking for one last shot at relevance.