THE olive branch that was offered to PAS by Umno today has set the tone for the next general election while exposing the complexities faced by political parties.
The opposition parties have recently been talking about forming two blocs to contest in the next polls but Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s offer has put a damper on such plans.
His offer should not be misconstrued as a shot in the dark but rather a carefully calculated move and done at the right time and setting.
With so much emphasis on Malay-Muslim unity, it is the most natural move for political expediency.
Though many may be reluctant to accept it, Najib realises the stark reality that non-Malay support for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition is already at rock bottom.
Though much effort is being done by the MCA and MIC to bring back Chinese and Indian support to the BN, it is almost impossible for it to return to pre-2008 levels.
So the next best thing is to increase its Malay support level, which is also said to be dipping.
Come the next general election, the Malay vote is set to be split three ways — Umno, PAS and Amanah-PKR.
There can be no clear winners if this happens and it is a situation that all the parties realise and want to avoid.
The best solution for any of them will be to get some form of an understanding in order to increase their chances.
Surely PAS also realises this and it explains the seemingly friendly overtures from the Islamist party recently.
Call it testing of the waters or by any other name, but PAS has shown itself to be accommodating to Najib, especially during the 2016 Budget vote when it decided not to vote against it.
PAS had already fallen out with its allies in the opposition pact and the split. leading to the formation of Parti Amanah Negara, has somewhat weakened it considerably, despite its leaders’ denials.
Apart from the east coast, it will be an uphill task for the party to go it alone in the next polls.
An understanding or cooperation with Umno will significantly boost its chances in the polls but the issue is how it will work out.
The dynamics of such a cooperation will be complicated as eventually candidates of both parties may be pitted against each other. Unless they decide to give way to each other.
There rises another problem as any such decision will have to get the nod from the BN Supreme Council, which comprises non-Malay parties.
It is unlikely MCA and MIC will accept it as whatever chances of securing non-Malay votes will then be further dampened.
PAS will also lose much credibility as Umno has consistently been portrayed as its sworn enemy.
It risks losing even more support from its grassroots.
While the idea of cooperation between both parties may look good on paper, it remains a far-fetched idea as it’s impractical. That is unless something drastic happens within both parties.