PAS conservatives' win sparks soul-searching

THE conservatives are back, seizing control of 22 out of 23 posts open to contest in the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) polls and raising questions about the future of the opposition coalition.

The ulama - or clerics - faction made a clean sweep of all five top posts: president, deputy president and three vice-presidents.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang retained the party presidency with a convincing win of 928 votes out of 1,161 ballots against former party vice-president Ahmad Awang.

Incumbent deputy president Mohamad Sabu, labelled the leader of the progressive professional group, was defeated by Pahang PAS commissioner Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, a former vice-president who is linked to the ulama faction.

Mr Mohamad garnered only 279 votes to Datuk Tuan Ibrahim's 881 in the party elections on Thursday.

The three PAS incumbent vice-presidents Husam Musa, Salahuddin Ayub and Mahfuz Omar also performed miserably, with each picking up less than 40 per cent of the votes.

The winners were Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, Selangor PAS commissioner Iskandar Samad and PAS central committee member Idris Ahmad.

On Wednesday, the conservative faction had swept polls in the Youth and Women's wings. It also retained control of the powerful Dewan Ulama, or clerics' wing.

Mr Mohamad was disappointed with the small number of votes he received, but reiterated his commitment to the party.

"As experienced people, we are used to losing, but I'm a bit sad with the small number of votes I garnered," he told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the annual party congress, which ends today.

Mr Abdul Hadi, however, tried to allay fears about the party being dominated by the ulama, pointing out that he could still appoint professionals to the central working committee.

"There is room according to the PAS Constitution for the appointment of the secretary- general, deputy secretary-general, treasurer and information chief by the central committee," he told reporters, adding that six positions in all could be appointed.

The results of the PAS polls have led to pessimism within the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), with Mr Liew Chin Tong, strategist of the secular PR partner Democratic Action Party (DAP), stopping short of spelling the end for the coalition.

"I think there will be a realignment in Malaysia. We will wait and see how this result will realign the political landscape," he told The Straits Times.

"PAS' new line-up will not be able to attract younger Malaysians and this will leave a gap between the party's hard-core supporters and the wider society," he added.

Similarly, if Datuk Seri Najib Razak were to remain as Prime Minister, his ruling Umno would see a gap between its leadership and the wider Malay population, he noted.

"The ground is not pushing to the right and this vacuum (left by the PAS and Umno leaderships) will allow new leaders to bring things back to bread-and-butter issues.

"Currently, there are no leaders addressing these important issues affecting the community."

Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Hua said that even if the DAP does not leave PR, the coalition will no longer retain its appeal.

"The conservative factions will now be louder in wanting more voice for the party in PR and make it more difficult for (coalition partners Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and DAP.

"PR would not be able to sell in mixed areas," he said.

This article was first published on June 6, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.