PAS says it wants to run any opposition government that might be elected, reports Asia Sentinel

The always-delicate relationship between Malaysia’s three opposition parties is growing strained again in the wake of the annual general conference of Parti Islam se-Malaysia, the conservative Islamic member of the coalition.

Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Pic: AP.

The issues are Hudud – Islamic law – and designation of Malaysia as an Islamic state. The other two wings of the coalition, the Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party and the urban, liberal largely Malay Parti Keadilan Rakyat, want nothing to do with either issue, leaving Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim with the task of trying to bring his coalition back together and particular to keep the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party in the fold.

The controversy gives Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak a made-to-order issue to paint the ruling Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition, as a force for moderation that will look after the well-being of the Chinese against the forces of radical conservative Islam. The Barisan has already begun energetically exploiting those issues through government-controlled media.

Until the Nov. 16 PAS general meeting, according to political analysts in Kuala Lumpur, the issues of Hudud and Islamic law which had been brought up occasionally had been regarded as fealty to rhetoric to keep the conservative wing of the party happy. Indeed, Hadi Awang, the party leader, opened the general conference on Nov. 16 with a speech that emphasized the common agenda – the so-called Buku Jingga, or yellow book on which the coalition is based –and issues over national elections expected to be held in April of 2013, only to have the conservatives stage a revolt.

PAS has managed to stay largely in the moderate camp on the strength of a clique of leaders called the “Erdogans” after the moderate Islamic Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has headed the Turkish government since 2003. In June of 2011, moderate rank and file members staged a dramatic revolution at the party’s annual congress, electing secular leaders and abandoning the rural-based party’s traditional call to convert the country into an Islamic state.

The largest party in Anwar’s coalition, PAS had long turned off urban Malays and other ethnic minorities, particularly the Chinese, with its demands for observance of strict conservative Islamic laws. Given the size of its membership, its organizational abilities and its potential to take votes away from the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest political party, PAS unity and support are crucial to the opposition coalition.

Continue reading at Asia Sentinel