PAS ditches Umno, decides on using PN logo for Melaka poll

Deciding on the logo issue means that PAS would be teaming up with Bersatu for the state election on Nov 20. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - The three major parties which form the current Malaysian government - Umno, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) - have failed in an attempt at cooperation for the Melaka state election later this month.

PAS on Monday (Nov 1) announced that it would contest the poll under the banner of Perikatan Nasional (PN), a coalition that also includes Bersatu.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said in a statement that the party's top leadership has decided on the logo issue, which effectively means that PAS would be teaming up with Bersatu for the state election on Nov 20.

PAS' decision comes after weeks of uncertainty over its intentions, as both Umno and Bersatu sought to cooperate with the Islamist party.

PAS is officially a part of PN, a registered coalition, but is also part of Muafakat Nasional, a loose political cooperation framework with Umno.

But Umno had stressed that it would cooperate with PAS but only if the Islamist party uses its own logo in the poll.

PAS' decision came on the same day that all Melaka Umno divisions announced that they would reject any cooperation with Bersatu, an Umno splinter party.

Umno had decided during its general assembly last year that it would not work with Bersatu during the next general election and party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been adamant on maintaining this position in Melaka as well.

Umno, though, kept the door open to PAS, hoping that the Islamist party would ditch its PN ally.

"Umno would have preferred to avoid a three-cornered battle with PAS, especially when Umno in Melaka is divided with the party grassroots disillusioned with its state chief. Most importantly, if Umno performs well, it would empower Zahid within Umno and hasten the call for a snap election," BowerGroup Asia director Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani told The Straits Times.

The relationship between Umno and Bersatu has deteriorated over the past year despite both being part of the same government bench under two prime ministers - Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his successor, current Premier Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The 28 state seats in Melaka will now likely witness three-corner or even multi-cornered fights, but pundits said that the Bersatu-PAS and Umno split would not immediately translate into an advantage for the federal opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) bloc.

Despite being the first to announce seat distribution among its component parties and use of a unified logo, PH is beset by disagreements over the fate of four Melaka assemblymen who defected from the Umno-led state government last month, causing its collapse.

Two of the rebel assemblymen were from Umno, one was from Bersatu and the other was an independent. Umno and Bersatu have sacked the rebels, who are now seeking to run under the PH banner.

All four had sought to form a new government with PH representatives after defecting last month, but the move failed after a state election was called instead.

PH chief Anwar Ibrahim has been open towards the prospect of working with them, but a key PH member - the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) - has been against this.

"I believe the latest decision by PAS will not significantly benefit PH, especially when (PH party) Amanah is even considering the 'Melaka four'. This is especially when many voters may decide not to go to the polling booth," Mr Asrul said.

The PH coalition is made up of DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Amanah, and Upko, which is a smaller party based in Sabah.

Last week, reports said that ethnic Chinese voters - who can significantly influence the outcome of six state seats in Melaka - are disillusioned by the recurring defections in the state assembly and are reluctant to participate in the election.

PH narrowly won Melaka during the 2018 election for the first time, but the government it formed collapsed shortly after the federal PH administration fell in early 2020.

Defections led to political turmoil in both instances. The last Melaka state government, formed by Umno, lasted just over a year.

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