KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Umno and PAS have formalised their ties by setting up a special technical committee to explore further political cooperation.
These two parties have previously worked together to confront Pakatan Harapan (PH) in a number of by-elections. With their cooperation now formalised, it is poised to leave a major impact on the country's political climate.
Umno is now fumbling to seek a new way out having lost the 14th general elections and experienced an unprecedented exodus of its elected reps.
The cooperation with PAS in several previous by-elections is seen as a testbed, and Barisan Nasional's victory in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih have offered both Umno and PAS a significant booster that serves to confirm their cooperation model.
Quoting Umno's acting president Mohamad Hasan, the two parties started their "dating" in Sungai Kandis by-election, got "engaged" in Seri Setia, and are now prepared to "tie the knot".
Even though some PH leaders do not think the Umno-PAS cooperation will actually work, the ruling coalition must not take things too lightly given the fact these two parties command almost two-thirds of the Malay electorate and are still very influential in the Malay community.
Of all the 222 parliamentary seats in the country, 119 are Malay-majority. Umno and PAS will pose a severe challenge to PH if their influence grow further.
It is generally anticipated that the cooperation between Umno and PAS will cause a further right tilt in the Malay politics to become more conservative and extreme.
In earlier by-elections, leaders from both Umno and PAS have come up with sensitive racial and religious issues in an attempt to incite public emotion.
With a tie-up now formalised, it is believed that more and more sensitive racial and religious issues will be raised, and this does not augur well for the development of a pluralistic Malaysia.
What worries us is that the racial and religious discourse of Umno and PAS will dictate the way the country's politics is headed to.
In the face of such a threat, it is imperative that PH stays true to its political belief and not to fall into the trap of its rivals.
This is not what New Malaysia should be and not what Malaysians want.
While the tie-up could help strengthen both Umno and PAS, do bear in mind that politics is not a zero sum game and the cooperation between the two parties may backfire, as non-Malays may feel alienated, making it very difficult for Umno-PAS to recapture Putrajaya.
Moderation is the only way for a New Malaysia!
In the meantime, the Umno-PAS cooperation not only poses a severe threat to PH but will also impact the destiny of BN.
MCA and MIC have expressed their intention to form a new alliance which BN will discuss in near future.
However, with a formal relationship now sealed between Umno and PAS, getting BN to move on is becoming increasingly difficult.
Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.