Allies skip big meet of Malaysian opposition coalition

KUALA LUMPUR • Pakatan Harapan (PH), a coalition of three Malaysian opposition parties, is holding its first national convention today, hoping to showcase a united opposition front ahead of a possible general election next year, but the grand plan has been torpedoed by its own allies.

PH was formed in September last year by the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP), the Malay-led but multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Amanah, a splinter group of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

The coalition came about soon after a bitter breakup of the Pakatan Rakyat alliance due to disagreements between DAP and PAS over the role of Islam in politics.

Although it was invited to the convention, PAS has said it will not attend because it does not want to be in the same room as DAP.

The convention is being held in the Selangor capital of Shah Alam, with one key speaker being former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has joined the opposition with his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Pribumi was expected to sign a coalition deal with PH today, but The Star newspaper said yesterday that Tun Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir's party was not going to sign the agreement yet because of concerns that it might affect the party's cooperation with PAS.

Pribumi wants to ensure that the opposition, which is fraught with infighting, will put up only one candidate to stand against the Umno-led Barisan Nasional at the general election, in order to have a chance of winning seats.

In another blow to the convention, Parti Warisan Sabah has also said it will not attend, the Malay Mail Online news site reported.

The opposition party was formed by former Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal and was widely expected to work together with PH to weaken Umno in Sabah.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Allies skip big meet of Malaysian opposition coalition'. Print Edition | Subscribe