Malaysia's PAS says it aims to win control of Parliament

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang speaking at a party function in Shah Alam yesterday. The Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance worries that PAS' decision not to work with it will cause multiple three-cornered fights that will benefit BN.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang speaking at a party function in Shah Alam yesterday. The Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance worries that PAS' decision not to work with it will cause multiple three-cornered fights that will benefit BN.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Islamist party sets ambitious target for next election, despite holding just 13 seats now

SHAH ALAM • Malaysia's Islamist party PAS, whose best electoral performance was winning 27 parliamentary seats in 1999 at the height of Reformasi anger, said it aims to win a simple majority of 112 seats at the upcoming polls.

The ambitious declaration by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang yesterday is an apparent hardening of its go-it-alone stance after abandoning the other big opposition parties in 2015.

PAS has 13 seats in Parliament today. It had previously said it was hoping to win 40 seats and become kingmaker in the tussle between the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH).

And Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi dismissed suggestions that PAS has an electoral pact with Prime Minister Najib Razak's Umno party. The PAS leader says the two parties work together only on Islamic matters, such as the Rohingya of Myanmar or the Palestine issue.

Mr Hadi said PAS will contest more than 130 federal Parliament seats as head of the Gagasan Sejahtera (Group of Harmony) alliance with the smaller opposition groups.

"We are aiming for more than 130 parliamentary seats so that we can win with a simple majority," Mr Hadi told reporters after a party function in Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor state.

"We either want to form the government, or we want to join the government that is formed," he added, as quoted by The Malaysian Insight news site.

A party or coalition must win a minimum 112 seats to control the 222-ward Parliament in South-east Asia's third-biggest economy.

BIG GOALS

We are aiming for more than 130 parliamentary seats so that we can win with a simple majority... We either want to form the government, or we want to join the government that is formed.

PAS PRESIDENT ABDUL HADI AWANG

PAS has huge obstacles in achieving its ambitious plans.

The BN coalition led by Datuk Seri Najib's Umno has won all the 13 general elections since independence.

BN has 132 seats in Parliament and PAS just 13. The four-party PH alliance has 71.

Two of the remaining parliamentary seats are in the hands of opposition Parti Warisan Sabah and four held by independent MPs.

The PH parties led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad are worried that by not working with them, PAS will cause multiple three-cornered fights for seats that will benefit BN.

The Gagasan Sejahtera members include Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia, Barisan Jemaah Islamiah SeMalaysia, Parti Cinta Malaysia and Parti Harapan Malaysia. None of them has any seats in the federal or state legislatures.

PAS won the most number of Parliament seats in 1999 when Malay-voter anger was at its peak against the government following the 1998 sacking of then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. It won 27 seats.

The Islamist party won 23 seats in 2008 and 21 in 2013, when it was part of an opposition alliance that it has since abandoned.

PAS' control of 21 seats was whittled down to 13 after it lost eight seats to defections in the last four years.

There has been regular speculation that to retain Kelantan state, PAS will need to have an electoral pact with Umno.

But leaders of both parties have dismissed the suggestion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2018, with the headline 'Malaysia's PAS says it aims to win control of Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe