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PAS leaders in Kelantan, Selangor and Kedah are negotiating with the Islamist party’s top leadership to form electoral pacts with the Pakatan Harapan coalition in these states.

The latest development comes as PAS leads a second opposition bloc, which could see it take on both PH and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in multi-candidate contests that have historically benefited BN.

Party sources said the leaderships of the three states were petitioning their bosses for leeway to work with PH to avoid multi-cornered contests.

This is to maintain straight fights between the opposition and BN in order to increase the chances of defeating the ruling coalition.

PAS is scheduled to launch its Gagasan Sejahtera Rakyat next month, which is expected to comprise Parti Cinta Malaysia, Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia and Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia.

PH comprises former PAS allies PKR and DAP, as well as Amanah and Bersatu.

The request for freedom to work with PH in the three states is also due to the unique relationships between their local PAS and PH leaders.

In PH-ruled Selangor, PAS has three officials in the 14-member state executive committee, despite the party ending all ties with PH parties in May.

In its latest meeting, PH member PKR had discussed a possible pact with PAS in Selangor and the number of seats that could be allocated to the Islamist party.

In Kedah, there are strong ties between the grassroots members and leaders of PAS and PH.

PH and Bersatu leader Mukhriz Mahathir said the door was still open for the coalition to work with PAS despite the latter’s official stand to not have any dealings with Bersatu.

Mukhriz told The Malaysian Insight recently that members of rival parties were more accommodating in Kedah than the rest of the peninsula.

“The political situation in Kedah is less extreme compared with other states.

“In Kedah, one household can have family members from different parties and still share a strong relationship,” said the Bersatu deputy president.

“Maybe, it’s because of this relationship in Kedah (among parties) that I am inclined, from the beginning, to keep the door open with room for discussion.”

In Kelantan, recent internal surveys revealed that PAS members would likely abandon the party if it showed any inclination of working with Umno, the lynchpin of BN.

The prospect of the two traditional rivals working together was sparked after PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and Umno president Najib Razak shared the stage on two high-profile occasions within two years.

Najib and other Umno leaders also worked with PAS late last year to bring the latter’s controversial bill, dubbed “RUU355”, to increase punishment for shariah offences, to the Dewan Rakyat.

The prime minister has continually praised PAS for cutting ties with DAP and PKR. His latest statement saw him complimenting PAS’ current brand of “mature and constructive politics”.

The prospect of an Umno-PAS pact would lead to a 60% drop in support for PAS in Kelantan, according to an internal study by the PAS-run Strategic Studies Centre (PKS), said a source.

PKS is run by the Kelantan government, which has had the Islamist party at its helm since 1991.

The findings tallied with those of a separate study by think tank Institut Darul Ehsan, which recommended that PAS contest only 23 out of 45 state seats if it wanted to retain Kelantan.

The study, which has been presented to Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob, argued for the remaining 22 seats to be given to PH parties.

When contacted, Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar of PAS said he had heard about this latest development and had discussed it with a Kedah PAS leader.

“For me, it is a positive and practical approach to defeating BN in the general election,” said Mahfuz, a well-known Kedah PAS leader who continues to advocate for closer ties between his party and PH. – August 14, 2017.

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