ALOR SETAR, Sept 5 — As the last Muktamar (annual congress) before the 15th general election (GE15), PAS members were back to the usual war-time rhetoric, calling for displays of strength against rivals and camaraderie within the party.
With the theme of “Malaysia Sejahtera” (Prosperous Malaysia) espoused by its leadership, PAS has put itself at the forefront of Malaysia politics, offering its version of a peaceful Islamic welfare state that would ostensibly solve most of the country’s woes, economic and social.
Now over a million members strong, more than 1,300 delegates and along with at least 800 observers attended the event, making the Muktamar was one of the largest political gatherings in the country.
Here are three things we learnt from the 2022 PAS Muktamar.
PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang (right) and Bersatu counterpart, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, attend the 68th PAS Muktamar in Kota Sarang Semut on September 3, 2022. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
1. PAS is still loyal to PN, but won’t forsake Umno
Arguably the most asked question before, during and after the Muktamar was whether PAS would ultimately decide where its fortunes would lie: with Bersatu and Perikatan Nasional (PN) or with former rival Umno, which is still the country’s largest Malay party.
“Journalists often ask us if PAS wants to choose Umno or Bersatu. No! We choose both,” said PAS vice-president Datuk Idris Ahmad in front of more than 5,000 attendees during the party’s election machinery gathering on Saturday.
“Let the people condemn, belittle us. We want unity (among Malay parties)!”
The crowd roared in unison the Takbir, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great), trademark chants of the Islamist party’s members.
PAS also saw itself as a peacemaker and a driving force for unity among the Malay parties, which they said would be more beneficial and peaceful for the country.
However, with PN lynchpin Bersatu seemingly having rejected Umno, it remains to be seen whether the trio can reach a settlement before GE15.
Some in PAS believe that the party could play a big role in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, all of which are headed by mentri besar from PAS.
“We must defend, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu at all cost. We must also defend and strengthen our position in the federal government,” said another PAS VP, Datuk Mohd Amar Abdullah.
Ultimately, this could be the PAS strategy to try and remain in power.
Scarves bearing the PAS logo are displayed for sale at the Kedah PAS Complex in Kota Sarang Semut. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
2. PAS wants to keep all its posts in federal government after GE15
In 2018 general election, PAS formed the Gagasan Sejahtera coalition with Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan), Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Malaysia (Berjasa) and other Malay NGOs.
The coalition contested at 160 seats using the PAS logo but only won in 18 seats, including nine in the party’s traditional stronghold Kelantan. However, PAS also won enough seats to take over the state of Terengganu.
PAS later formed the informal Muafakat Nasional (MN) charter with Umno.
After the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in 2020, PAS joined the Perikatan Nasional coalition with Bersatu, Gerakan and PBRS while insisting that it would maintain the MN cooperation with Umno.
PAS arguably gained the most after the so-called Sheraton Move of 2020, going from an Opposition party to one in the federal government with three ministers and eight deputies despite providing just 17 federal seats.
The party leaders do not deny that their position in the federal government was based on good fortune rather than electoral merit, with PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang crediting God for his party’s position now.
“Allah gives victory to whomever He chooses. And Islam will always be guaranteed to win,” he told the delegates in his closing speech for the Muktamar.
Separately, PAS election director Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor disclosed that the party aimed to win 40 seats in GE15, banking on cooperation with Umno and Bersatu.
“If we win 40 seats, no party can form a government without PAS,” he told delegates on the last day of the 68th PAS annual congress here.
That is also the reason PAS was working hard to broker a deal with Umno to avoid one on one battle in several seats that they had been eyeing.
PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the party has identified at least 27 seats — all currently held by PH — as key to his party’s success.
PAS also saw itself as a major political player, loudly calling for the use of its own logo in at least three states, despite being part of the PN coalition.
Supporters wave PAS flags during the launch of the party’s election machinery at the Kedah PAS Complex in Kota Sarang Semut on September 4, 2022. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
3. Future plan for PAS: To birth a prime minister
PAS’s fortunes since joining the federal government in 2020 has clearly soared, with the latest Muktamar boasting better amenities, events and displays compared to those from before 2018.
The party also showed a video montage of the party’s contributions as well as those of its ministers and deputy ministers, to illustrate the positive effect the party has had one the government.
When Mohd Amar said that the prime minister could one day from PAS during the gathering for its election machinery, attendees erupted in cheers and genuine belief that the party would one day be in charge of Malaysia.
Party election director Muhammad Sanusi, during the last day of the Muktamar, set the goal for the party to become preeminent in 2050.
“That is too late, we can do it earlier,” a delegate who only calls himself Ustaz Hassan told Malay Mail when met outside of the hall during idle chit chat outside of the hall.
Another delegate calling himself Irwan chimed in to say PAS had shown its leaders were not corrupt as those in PN and BN, and had always followed the “path of the righteous.”
Several others also said the same thing, believing that God will one day grant them the victory their leaders have guaranteed.