KUALA LUMPUR - Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) on Monday (March 12) said that its election manifesto will not mention the controversial pledge to turn Malaysia into an "Islamic state" and will instead mainly address woes faced by many Malaysians, including cost-of-living issues, reducing the income gap between rural and urban areas and increasing disposable income.
Leaders of the Islamist party told a news conference that it would also ensure that the country's legal and administrative systems follow "the requirements of the syariah" (Islamic law) as well as return state rights which they said had been taken away by the federal government.
"The main issues faced by the majority of the people are cost of living, security and national unity," said PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man after the party's monthly meeting. "These issues affect both Muslims and non-Muslims".
The actual launching of the manifesto, entitled Malaysia Sejahtera (Harmonious Malaysia) will be on March 18. PAS has a claimed membership of one million, making it Malaysia's second biggest political party based on membership after the ruling Umno with 3.2 million.
Asked whether PAS will mention the term "Islamic State" in its manifesto, party secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said: "We are not using the terminology. Our approach is about a harmonious community... following God's laws".
This would be a departure from previous elections when PAS openly championed turning Malaysia into an "Islamic state", scaring off non-Muslim voters.
PAS on Monday also confirmed that it would form a so-called "third force" in the coming election to contest against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the opposition pact, Pakatan Harapan (PH).
The Islamist party has signed an electoral pact to form Gagasan Sejahtera (Movement of Harmony), with Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia, which will be taking part in its first elections, and Berjasa, another Islamist but small political party.
PAS has said that it aims to win at least 40 seats and become a kingmaker as BN and PH fight it out for control of Malaysia's 222-member Parliament. It currently holds 13 parliamentary seats.
The party, which controls the Kelantan state legislature, has said it plans to contest in at least 140 seats in the coming general election, which is widely expected to be called shortly.
The opposition PH pact launched its manifesto last week, which among things, called for limits to the terms of the prime minister and state chief ministers as well as the scrapping of the unpopular Goods and Services tax.
The BN has not released its manifesto but last week its Strategic Communications director, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said that in past election this was done only after the dissolution of parliament.