By SHAMSUL AKMAR / Pic By BERNAMA
Now that the union between Umno and PAS is somewhat solemnised, should the nation be concerned of the impact on the country’s political landscape?
Holy or otherwise, it depends on which side of the political divide the opinion originates, but so far as the advocates are concerned, it is a marriage made in heaven.
After all, the premise of the union is based on the struggle for the continuity of Islam and the Malay race.
The move is further affirmed that both Islam and the Malay race are under threat from the current government that is dominated by the non-Malays/Muslims.
How much more hallowed can a cause be when they are born out of such concerns and commitments?
Truly, religion and race are strong elements to bind, when fear, siege and uncertainties — be they social or economics or both — are the underlying factors.
And these narratives seem to be catching on with a substantial segment of the Malays, once divided by the Umno/PAS schism.
In ordinary times and under “normal” circumstances, such a union could have even been a cause for celebration.
At the very least, it should put an end to the need to resort to declaring those in the opposing side infidels or lesser Muslims.
Even though the Umno/PAS duality had always been perceived as an intra-Malay, intra-Muslim one-upmanship, but their efforts to out-Islam or out-Malay had caused much discomfort among the non-Malays, especially Umno’s partners within the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
There were attempts to establish some loose cooperation between Umno and PAS in the past. But PAS demanded that Umno incorporated some segment of the Islamic penal code into federal laws which contributed further to the non-Muslim anxiety.
Thus, the proposed collaborations had never materialised merely because it would have broken up BN, and Umno would lose the support, not only from its traditional non-Muslim partners, but also its “fixed deposit” in Sabah and Sarawak, as both the Borneo states are generally opposed to anything to do with PAS.
But now, all that Umno had feared had come to past, as the 14th General Election (GE14) saw the downfall of BN and the union is now but only left in name.
In that sense, the recent union between Umno and PAS is almost inevitable, as even during GE14, a secret deal was already struck between the two parties and the three-cornered fight was a result of the strategic collaboration.
In short, whether it was with the knowledge of the non-Malay partners in BN, Umno and PAS had already collaborated in the last polls. And if they had won, they would have probably carved up the country between them and at the same time maintained BN’s rule, particularly in the West coast and Borneo.
However, the strategy did not only fail but was backfired. While PAS scored in the East Coast and some Malay majority seats in the West Coast, Umno’s bounty was halved compared to its GE13 gains.
Its partners in BN, except in Sabah and Sarawak, were wiped out with an odd seat or two, more tombstones than monuments of their existence.
That in essence freed Umno of the cumbersome BN baggage it had been lugging, allowing it to turn to PAS for its political lifeline.
Throwing caution into the wind, Umno went headlong into the Malay/Muslim under threat narratives, knowing fully well that most Malays feeling disconnected with the Malaysia Baharu assemble will rally on such matters.
These Malays were already, mostly, their supporters in the last elections. Reeling from the previous onslaught following a slew of corruption and abuse of power revelations against their leaders, the Islam and Malay under threat narrative is readily available, time tested, a no-brainer and easy to sell.
In many ways, it gave them an opportunity to regain some dignity after being floored for supporting the kleptocrats in the last polls.
The only setback, if there is any, is that most of the leaders doing the selling are either mired in multiple scandalous financial misdemeanours themselves or supported those who did.
But these too now seem negligible.
If one buys the narrative that Islam and Malay are under threat, does it really matter if the individuals or parties initiating the fight back are corrupt or internationally scandalised?
Maybe it can be construed as a case of scaling the divine ratings after falling from grace.
With that out of the hair, wither Malaysia with these new political manoeuvrings?
Obviously, the first casualty is multiculturalism and that too, over the years, had not been the mainstay of Malaysia, as peaceful co-existence is actually the more apt description of the nation’s construct.
Regardless, the Umno/PAS union obviously seeks to secure and consolidate all the Malay majority seats.
Whether the number is ample for a simple majority is debatable, but if they do secure the bulk of the Malay majority seats, then their claim to represent the Malays cannot be disputed.
And this is the foundation for Umno and PAS to rebuild Malaysia. Some may find such politics unpalatable as it panders to primordial sentiments.
To others, it is, however, divinely ordained.
- Shamsul Akmar is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve.