The internal conflict between the professional and the ulama factions in PAS has threatened to break the party apart. While the internal struggle has been going on for a while, it wasn’t until the current Selangor Menteri Besar fiasco that it has made its way into broad national discourse- no doubt added by an ever willing mass media to showcase the “bad” side of the opposition. Will PR, as we know in its current shape and form, survive this?
The influx of professionals had made PAS more inclusive and less firebrand of a party and it has shown benefits as it was able to win in seats that are multicultural and multi-religous.
However, this change does not bode well with the more conservative members of the party who still want to hold on to its more fundamental leanings. The rift in the party between the conservative camp and the (slightly) liberal professional camp has been going on for a while now but it really came to a boil recently during the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis.
While a new Menteri Besar has been appointed, this issue will continue to rage on in the party. Questions will still be asked internally on whether they should have stalled the appointment further seeing that it was Anwar Ibrahim and his Kajang Move that got everyone into trouble in the first place, or should they had worked together with their political partners behind to find a resolution even though they weren’t entirely responsible for it in the first place.
Whatever they may conclude, what is clear is that the battle lines are clearly drawn and the conservatives have rallied behind the Syura Council and party president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang while the liberals have coalesced around the National Legal Bureau, the PAS Central Committee and a new group called PasMa, consisting of members of PAS who disagreed with the way on how the party is being run.
Personally, I respect PAS as a party that is aligned to the principles of fair play. I also admire their ability to galvanize and organize the grassroots. However, this new development is worrying as it means that internal energy and focus will be used to address this thorny issue, now with added gusto.
If PAS decides to revert to its more conservative roots, their membership in Pakatan Rakyat will be reviewed as it goes against the socially liberal PKR and DAP. This would relegate them to the more Malay heartland parts of Malaysia and they win back some of the rural constituents that BN had won in the last election.
If the liberals have their way and PAS stay the course within Pakatan, they will continue to lose votes in the rural heartlands as UMNO swings further right to vilify the Islamic party as a sell-out.
Either scenario doesn’t bode well for the opposition and it looks like BN is set to win back some its losses in the next general election.