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COMMENTARY

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22, 2015:

As Umno and PAS prepare to dance together, the ripples from it is already affecting Barisan Nasional component parties, especially the MCA.

Being the Chinese voice in the ruling coalition, MCA has always criticised PAS and its Islamist agenda, with party leaders being quite thorough in taking DAP to task for “sleeping with the enemy”.

However, the tables have turned and MCA is now reeling from the two biggest Malay parties’ decision to forge closer ties.

DAP was always hard-pressed to explain why they were working with PAS, but riding on a general anti-establishment wave since 2008, it managed to sweep the issues under the carpet.

That was until things started to boil over and the opposition coalition began to unravel this year.

DAP was finally free from PAS, which seemed to be rejuvenated with a more Malay-Muslim agenda than ever before.

In seeking to rally the Malays with the idea of a united ummah, Umno extended the olive branch to PAS, and it seems to have been well received by its leaders.

But the downside to this is BN’s possible loss of the non-Malay votes.

MCA and MIC will be hard-pressed to convince its respective communities on why this alliance will not affect them.

After all, both parties have frequently warned that non-Malay rights may be trampled on if PAS takes over and implements its Islamic and Hudud agenda.

They had a field day attacking PAS when they were in the opposition coalition, but is everything okay now?

This is question they have to answer the voters. However, the situation differs between MIC and MCA.

MIC may actually benefit from this, while it’s the opposite for MCA.

MIC had always banked on the Malay votes to win its seats, but a swing in Malay votes to the PKR-PAS alliance in the 2008 General Election sealed its fate, as it lost almost all its seats. It was a scenario that was repeated in the 2013 General Election.

Now, if the Umno-PAS alliance works out, MIC may be able to regain some of the seats with the return of some Malay votes back to the BN.

This alliance must work out if MIC is to have a fair chance of recapturing its lost bastions.

In the 2013 elections, MIC contested nine parliamentary and 19 state seats. It only managed to win four parliamentary and five state seats.

If the alliance works out, the party may be able to add another two parliamentary and three state seats to its stable.

It could be looking at getting back Kota Raja and Kapar parliamentary seats while the state seats could be Lunas, Bukit Selambau and Hutan Melintang.

But with MCA, it’s all bad news. Hard-pressed to regain the Chinese community’s confidence, it will now be seen as “sleeping with the enemy”.

MCA has stated it will oppose any attempts to implement PAS’ hudud, but the very fact that it is unable to oppose the alliance will be seen as compromising the party’s stand.

It will further imprint the idea that the party is weak and unable to stand up to Umno, an accusation frequently thrown by DAP.

MCA will also be hard-pressed to answer allegations that Umno and the ruling coalition has almost totally given up hope on Chinese votes and that MCA is no longer relevant.

In the 2013 elections, the party contested 37 parliamentary seats and 90 state seats. However it only won seven parliamentary and 11 state seats.

Although the party may attract some Malay votes due to the alliance, it is unlikely that it will improve its showing as the party has generally performed better when facing PAS candidates as shown by the results in Johor.

So it looks like MCA leaders have to go back to their war room and prepare a plausible explanation on this alliance if they are to have any chances of remaining relevant to the community.

However, all these remain to be seen as the alliance first needs to take off. Even if it does, it needs to get the approval of millions of Umno and PAS members, who until now have been fiercely critical of each other.

Trust can’t be built overnight and can only be done through a laboriously slow process.

The major work for both parties is convincing the Malay voters that this is something workable and useful.

On the other hand, the Opposition, too, is working overtime to promote the newly formed PAS splinter party, Parti Amanah Negara.

If Amanah gains traction among PAS grassroots, the Umno-PAS alliance will mean nothing in electoral terms, and it will be back to the drawing board for the political strategists.

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