Pak Lah covertly wooing PAS?
KUALA LUMPUR: If Umno and PAS move to bridge their political divide, the man who would be spearheading the efforts would be none other than former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The unity talk has gained strong credence of late and Abdullah (pix, top) has resurfaced to try and get the Islamist party back into the Barisan Nasional fold. PAS left the BN camp in 1978.
Political observers believed that Pak Lah, as he is fondly called, wants to redeem his sullied image by playing this new role.
Abdullah, severely criticised for weak leadership during his premiership, had to step down from the highest office in the land after the BN suffered a humiliating setback in the 2008 general election. Abdullah was hardly seen on the national stage since then.
But now he is coming out of hibernation and the Umno-PAS unity talk has given him a platform to regain some measure of pride and dignity on the national stage. With a background in Islamic teachings, Abdullah is seen as the ideal man to woo PAS back into BN.
“It will go some way in rebuilding his legacy,” said an observer.
Some analysts suggested that the book, Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia, was part of Abdullah’s efforts to set the record straight regarding his premiership.
“He wants to put many issues involving him and his premiership in the right perspective so that he can participate in the political life of the country as a credible leader,” said an analyst.
The Umno-PAS unity dialogue would give Abdullah the platform he needed to project a new image in the role of a mediator.
This is no trivial matter because Umno and PAS are the two dominant forces in the Malay political consciousness. If the two foes can bury the hatchet, it would dramatically change the political equation.
“If Abdullah succeeds in uniting the two erstwhile enemies, he will go down in history as someone who united the Malays,” said an analyst.
This time around PAS is keen to shake hands with Umno particularly after it suffered a setback in the 13th general election.
The party performed the worst among the three partners in Pakatan Rakyat. It lost substantial support among the Malays who had grown increasingly uneasy over the party’s concessions to the DAP and PKR.
The Islamist party realises that it faces the prospect of losing more support, especially from its traditional base in the Malay heartland, if it does not change course fast. And that means going back to its Islamic roots.
“PAS is seriously considering going back to its original struggle even if this means sacrificing its ties with PKR and DAP,” said a political observer.
(When PAS was established in 1951, its original struggle was to set up an Islamic nation.)
In the meantime, hardline forces in PAS are said to be gearing up to curb the influence of the “Erdogan faction” in the party. The Erdogans or progressives are known for their moderate Islamic politics and they oppose any attempts to work with Umno.
At one time former Kelantan menteri besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat was considered to be the main stumbling block to the idea of a unity government with PAS.
But after relinquishing his post amidst failing health, his influence in PAS is starting to wane.
“If Nik Aziz is out of the picture completely, Pakatan Rakyat will likely crumble as the coalition will be unable to reach out to the Malay heartland,” said an observer.