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THE agenda was simple yet it took the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Presidential Council the better part of four hours to work out whether the coalition should cooperate with PAS in the 14th general election, a course that is being pursued by component member PKR.

After a long debate during which those for and against the move presented their arguments, the coalition finally decided to say no to working with PAS.

In a statement issued after the meeting, PH said it was shutting the door on PAS and was prepared to face the resultant three-cornered fights in the next polls.

The Malaysian Insight was made to understand that the debate took up more than two hours of the meeting, with the rest of the time spent discussing state leadership appointments, seat negotiations, the PH Election Committee’s report and miscellaneous issues.

According to sources who attended the meeting, Bersatu, Amanah and DAP leaders clearly rejected any cooperation with PAS while several PKR leaders asked for more time to negotiate with the Islamist party.

The pros and cons of rejecting PAS, as sketched out by those who attended the meeting, are reproduced below.

Pros:

  • Rejecting PAS gives a clear signal to voters, especially as PH has sufficient time to explain its decision to voters.
  • Cooperation will cause PH to lose non-Malay votes, which helped the opposition to win several states in the last election and which will be the deciding factor in three-cornered fights against Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS in the next.
  • PH can still win in three-cornered fights, albeit with much smaller majorities of 2% to 3%.
  • PKR’s continued cooperation with PAS will compromise the positions of Bersatu, Amanah, and DAP in the coalition.
  • PAS’ increasingly close ties with Umno, and the lack of a guarantee that PH can rein in PAS should there be cooperation between the two.
  • PAS’ track record of betrayal. When the party was in Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election, PAS fielded candidates in PKR seats such as Kota Damansara, which enabled BN to win due to split votes for the opposition.

Cons:

  • Three-cornered fights will split votes and cost PH its bid for federal power.
  • States currently controlled by the opposition may fall back to BN.
  • Prime Minister Najib Razak could remain in power indefinitely if BN manages to topple the Selangor and Kelantan governments and consolidate his position in Umno.
  • Irreparable damage to Malaysia if Najib is given chance to continue to rule.
  • Without PAS, it will be difficult for PH to obtain strong Malay support, especially in rural areas.
  • It is important for PH to win the Malay voters, who will not reject PH because it is working with PAS.

Yesterday, Selangor government think tank Institut Daruk Ehsan (IDE) unveiled a study which showed that one-on-one fights would be extremely beneficial to the opposition.

The study also showed that as long as PH cooperated with PAS in GE14, it would likely retain Selangor, Penang, and Kelantan, and possibly take Kedah, Perak, Pahang and Malacca.

Last night’s meeting was chaired by PH and Bersatu chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad and attended by the leaders of the component parties including  PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Bersatu deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng

PKR was represented by Nurul Izzah Anwar, Chua Tian Chang, Rafizi Ramli, Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, Zuraida Kamaruddin, Dr Xavier Jeyakumar, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Saifuddin Abdullah, and Fahmi Fadzil. PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali did not attend the meeting.

Bersatu was represented by Mukhriz Mahathir, Dr Rais Hussin, and Syed Saadiq Abdul Rahman, and DAP by Tan Kok Wai, Teresa Kok, Gobind Singh Deo, Chong Chieng Jen and Liew Chin Tong.

Salahuddin Ayub, Husam Musa, Anuar Tahir and Khalid Samad sat in for Amanah. – August 29, 2017.

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