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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Divorce plot in the PAS drama

THE marriage between PAS and PKR is over and the divorce papers have been filed.

But it will not be official until the syura council, the highest decision-making body of PAS, makes the final decision.

In the meantime, PAS will carry on in the Selangor government and everyone gets to keep their posts for now.

In a few weeks time, the hot air from the party muktamar will settle and it will be back to business as usual in the country’s most unusual state government which is made up of friends and enemies.

The sense among journalists covering the muktamar is that they had spent the last few days watching a well-choreographed political theatre.

The show took off with delegates criticising Pakatan Harapan, especially PKR, and clamouring for a divorce. The break-up sentiment was building up and even a power blackout during the Dewan Pemuda meeting could not dampen the mood.

Mother Nature then added to the drama, as a violent storm on Saturday night reduced part of the site where the muktamar was taking place into a disaster zone.

The anti-PKR mood was serious enough for PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to hold a special pre-muktamar briefing for all the delegates. He also had a separate session with the Selangor leaders to explain what was at stake and why the party cannot quit the state government immediately.

It was not just about posts in Selangor, it was about stopping their mortal enemy Amanah from growing into a threat

If PAS relinquished all its state government posts, Parti Amanah Negara would move in to take over and leverage on it in the general election.

The delegates understood that it was a question of survival and the subsequent debates saw them steer away from further anti-PKR attacks.

The insider view is that the syura council will take its time to deliberate and by the time a decision is made, the general election would probably be around the corner.

The fact that everything went according to script was seen as a personal victory for Abdul Hadi. He is said to be thankful for the way the muktamar turned out.

His popularity dipped after the party was kicked out of the opposition coalition but party members have since accepted that if they want to pursue their Islamic agenda, they cannot continue to be part of a set-up that includes DAP.

The delegates also gave their endorsement for the party to form a third bloc ahead of the general election. They plan to be the kingmaker in the event of a hung state assembly involving the two coalitions or even a hung Parliament.

Abdul Hadi has often been described as a poor politician but the power play over Selangor suggests that the ulama is instead an astute politician.

It helped that PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali knew how to play along. Azmin was quite the master of restraint, saying the right things at the right time.

Azmin left for the Middle East yesterday, confident his government will still be there when he returns.

The fact that his delegation included Datuk Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, the PAS state exco member for Islamic Affairs, speaks volumes – Azmin intends to keep PAS in his government for as long as he can.

The greatest irony is that DAP, which has the most number of seats in the Selangor government, was a helpless bystander throughout all this. It had no say or control over who should be in or out in their coalition government.

Abdul Hadi did not appear well and he looked rather pale. He has lost so much weight that his clothes hung loosely on him and the energy and oomph was missing from his voice.

He is still quite unrivalled as he approaches the sunset of his career. The succession line is in place and the party has an impressive stock of younger and well-educated religious scholars.

The devastating storm has been likened to an omen of the challenges ahead. PAS has returned to its roots and the decision to go it alone and to form a third bloc will be the game-changer in the general election.

The muktamar has been stirred by talk of the party taking five states but so much has changed that every political party including PAS will have trouble finding their way through the new political landscape.

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