In politics, the players sometimes make undesirable partnerships though there's no guarantee that it would be a lifelong commitment. They will stick by your side when you triumph but will drop you in a heartbeat once you've messed up big time. However, partnerships and alliances can be powerful if the motive, cause and ideologies are similar and, of course, there is must be cohesiveness in the coalition.
The 'Unholy' Matrimony
The alliance between Democratic Action Party (DAP) and The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) would have been thought of as far-fetched not too long ago.
It would not have happened without Anwar Ibrahim and his PKR. Regardless of our personal views on Anwar we have to hand it to him for being able to convince these two opposition parties with arguably opposing ideologies and beliefs to put their differences aside for the sake of that extra political mileage.
So, going by the 'united we stand, divided we fall' adage, Pakatan Rakyat was formed after the 2001 political tsunami. For the first time in Malaysian history, there's an opposition coalition and this has changed the whole political landscape.
PAS positions itself as a political party that aims to establish Malaysia as a country based on Islamic legal theory derived from the primary sources of Islam: the Quran, Sunnah as well as Hadiths. PAS holds the view that establishing an Islamic state would benefit not only Muslims but also non-Muslims in the country.
The party enjoys strong support from the northern rural areas and conservative states in the peninsular such as Kelantan and Terengganu.
It is also the first opposition party in independent Malaysia's history to defeat the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in a Malay dominated state.
You can't deny that PAS have an impressive history. The party's most recent breakthrough was when it claimed three (including Perak) out of five states that fell into the opposition's hands, outperforming the other parties, opposition and BN alike, in the historical March 2008 'tsunami'. Incidentally, PAS was part of BN (alongside Umno) back in 1973 to 1978 during Asri Muda's time.
The DAP meanwhile have grown in popularity in recent times as we can see from the results of the last general election, the Sibu by-election and the more recent Sarawak state election.
The Chinese-majority party had contested in 10 general elections from 1969 to 2008. DAP members believe that they are socialists (perhaps they were in their early days) fighting for equality. So far, the party has been the most aggressive in their media campaigns compared to the other parties, be it Pakatan or BN.
Believe me, if you work in Editorial you'd know that, among all the parties, DAP issues the most media statements.
We have to seriously think and look into the 'unholy' alliance between PAS and DAP – two parties with diametrically opposite principles and beliefs. Apart from the peculiar pact between these two parties, another question is who is the leader of the Pakatan pack? Since the Pakatan deal was signed, has PAS been supporting DAP more or is it the other way round?
The Rebranding of PAS
For the most part of PAS' history, the party has only targeted the Malay-Muslim supporters.
However since the 2004 election, there is clear indication that PAS have been trying to reach out to non-Muslim Malaysians. In order to make the non-Muslims more receptive to the Islamist party, they went through a rebranding exercise and started to portray themselves as a more moderate and progressive outfit. We started seeing fresh personalities by the likes of Khalid Samad (Shah Alam MP), Nizar Jamaluddin (former Perak MB) and Husam Musa (PAS vice-president) in the frontlines.
And these leaders were successful in getting the respect from the non-Malays because of their modern Muslim approach.
The party even fielded an Indian woman in a Johor constituency in the last general election.
Also, during the months leading up to the 2008 elections, PAS had rarely mentioned about the setting up of an Islamic state, which has been one of the party's main objectives throughout its history.
DAP's Success in Sarawak
PKR leaders described its gain of two seats from winning of three out of 49 seats in Sarawak as "historic" and a step towards a two-party system in the state.
Meanwhile, PAS fared badly at making inroads in Sarawak after losing all the five seats it contested for with some candidates losing their deposits. It was the DAP which stole the limelight with their 12 out of 15 seats win – the biggest gain of the day with six additional seats in their name.
This was PAS' analogy to justify losing all five seats in the Sarawak State Election: In 2000 they sowed the seeds, in 2006 the seeds germinated, in 2011 the tree had produced flowers and, in the next state election, it will bear fruit.
Getting the confidence Sarawakian voters has always been an arduous task for PAS. Winning at least one seat in the state would be enough to lend credence to their analogy.
Unlike in the peninsular, with DAP having the upper hand in Sarawak, PKR and PAS machineries had to get a piggyback ride from the DAP machinery during the state election. Meanwhile, in the peninsular, PAS' would be the one providing their support to the DAP and the PKR.
For PAS to make inroads in Sarawak it would require some sacrifice from the DAP. For the greater good of Pakatan DAP must allow PAS to contest in Chinese-dominated seats in the next state election and maybe in the next general election.
Moreover, PAS was willing to forsake its values by forging an 'unholy' alliance with the DAP. If PAS can take care of the interests of the DAP in the peninsular at the expense of its image and reputaion, why not the DAP reciprocate in Sarawak for the sake of the Opposition in the PAS-PKR-DAP political alliance? I think that would be the only way for PAS to 'sow their seeds' in Sarawak.
*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the write*
Sent by Maxis from my BlackBerry® smartphone