What’s next for Piagam Muafakat Nasional?

Despite criticisms and accusations of hypocrisy, Umno and PAS supporters have backed the agreement

pic by BERNAMA

THE Umno-PAS charter was inked on Saturday after months of speculations and wooing. The courtship of the country’s once fiercest political rivals has finally come to flags of both parties donning the hall once sacred to Umno and members singing the same tune — for race and religion.

The inking of the unofficial agreement sets the tone for a fierce 15th General Election (GE15) to be called less than four years from now.

The cooperation, officially named Piagam Muafakat Nasional (National Cooperation Charter) aims to unify the Malay-Muslim community (ummah) which has been divided due to political differences and religious views for more than four decades.

No matter how one would look at it, the working relationship between the Islamist and Malay-based party is significant.

Two sworn enemies had managed to put aside their differences. Their narrative: Form cooperation by spreading the Islamic and Malay narrative without rejecting the rights of other religions, races and cultures as the crux of political stability, racial harmony and the country’s prosperity.

Despite criticisms and accusations of hypocrisy, Umno and PAS supporters have backed the agreement, claiming there are no permanent enemies in politics.

Even the Memali incident, which was a sore point in the parties’ rivalry, is now deemed as history.

The supporters of this holy partnership were fast to point out to the 20-year fight between Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

They were quick to justify that the greater good of the ummah — perceived to be under threat from Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) government — outweighed any scandals and allegations against Umno leaders. Their justification — the positions of Malay and Muslim must be upheld at all costs.

For many observers, the charter is not concrete enough to dictate the direction for both Umno and PAS. Stance on hudud was clearly absent. Also missing from the charter is how PAS and Umno would address issues related to the Federal Constitution without neglecting the rights of the non-Muslims and non-Bumiputeras.

Critics have described Piagam Muafakat Nasional as a political rhetoric — manifested solely to gain support from the Muslim-Malay community after both parties were largely defeated in the last elections and now sit together as the Opposition.

Others are more candid, viewing the ceremony during the weekend where about 25,000 people filling up Putra World Trade Centre as an official “wedding ceremony” to witness the signing of a charter boiled and mashed towards one goal: To defeat PH.

Sceptics underlined that PAS had officially adopted two major political ties in the last two decades — from Barisan Alternatif to Tahaluf Siyasi with Pakatan Rakyat in GE13.

What differs this time around is this working cooperation is with the people of the same race and religion.

How will this pack evolve remains as mysterious as the location of the Ark of Covenant.

What is next for these new-found lovers? What will be their game plan to woo voters — especially the detractors?

Will there be consensus in seat distribution and national policies?

How will these parties convince the non-Muslim in Semenanjung and non-Bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak? To put that responsibility on Barisan Nasional’s coalition partner — MCA and MIC — will be a big task as these two parties were almost massacred during GE14.

Should PH be afraid of this newfound love between Umno and PAS?

It is very early days still. PH may have the time to prepare for the next general election and put a good fight against Umno and PAS.

To totally dismiss the impact of Piagam Muafakat Nasional will be to its own peril. But then again, people blinded by love often make mistakes.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.