Infighting threatens unity of Selangor state govt

Flags and banners of opposition rivals Parti Islam SeMalaysia, Parti Amanah Negara and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition are seen in Kuala Kangsar, Perak.
Flags and banners of opposition rivals Parti Islam SeMalaysia, Parti Amanah Negara and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition are seen in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Malaysia's richest state Selangor is in a flux. Last week, leaders of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and those from Parti Amanah Negara were throwing insults at one another in the heat of campaigning in the Sungai Besar by-election in north-west Selangor.

And Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali, who is part of Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) leadership, joined his Amanah colleagues from the Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance to campaign against PAS and Prime Minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional (BN).

BN won in the end as the votes were split between the two opposition parties, PAS and Amanah.

This week, the same Selangor leaders from PAS, Amanah and PKR must get together again, pretending last week didn't happen and that they are still partners in the state government.

Mr Azmin needs to please his two coalition partners in Selangor to ensure that the state government remains intact until the next general election in 2018.

Much is at stake as Selangor is home to Malaysia's biggest port, Port Klang, and biggest airport, KLIA, and many multinational factories, from Panasonic to Nestle.

On one hand is PH, consisting of PKR, Amanah and the Democratic Action Party. On the other hand is PAS, which used to be part of the opposition alliance but left after bitter quarrels last year.

In an interview with Chinese paper Oriental Daily yesterday, Mr Azmin admitted there were difficulties communicating with the top PAS leadership.

"In theory, the state can function with the different parties. But in reality, that is a challenge," said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief of think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.

The by-elections in both Sungai Besar and in Kuala Kangsar in Perak were the first time that Amanah stood against PAS. This has raised tensions anew within the state government, as Amanah was formed by disgruntled PAS leaders.

Mr Azmin said on Monday that the opposition needs to form a "solid" bloc to face BN in the next elections, as three-cornered fights will benefit BN.

Politicians from both sides of the opposition factions told The Straits Times that they are unable to come together for the general election, as the alliance wants to strengthen Amanah, a group that PAS sees as containing traitors to its cause.

"At this point, it is not possible for PAS to work with Amanah for general elections," PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man told The Straits Times.

He said while PAS is amenable to working with Mr Azmin to ensure Selangor remains under the PH-PAS banner, the Islamic party won't be joining the PH alliance.

At this point, opposition leaders remain uncertain what to do next, while BN has started dreaming about taking back Malaysia's most industrialised state.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'Infighting threatens unity of Selangor state govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe