Monday, October 1, 2007

Reformists Win Malaysia’s Islamic Party Elections

KUALA LUMPUR, June 5, 2005 ( & News Agencies) – The Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) on Sunday, June 5, elected new reformist leaders, including a deputy president seen as a flag-bearer of the young wing in the party.

PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang retained his post unopposed.

Many other liberals also won leading posts, marking a major power shift in the party ahead of the next general elections in 2008, Reuters said.

They include the three vice-presidents: Husam Musa, Mohamad Sabu and Hasan Ali, PAS polls chief Yahya Othman said.

Husam, an economist and loyalist of PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, scored the highest number of votes followed by activist Mohamad and motivational speaker Hassan.

This is the first time in the party's 54-year-history that a three-man vice presidential team that is not made up of scholars was elected.

PAS, once a growing opposition force, suffered a humiliating defeat in general elections last year by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's United Malays National Organization-led coalition.

The party's parliamentary strength subsequently dipped to five seats from 27.

PAS also lost power in one of the two states it ruled, leaving it in control of only Kelantan state in the northeast.

Reform Calls

Nasharuddin's victory, according to Bernama, came as a surprise as he defeated incumbent Senator Hassan Shukri and former treasurer Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Rahman, two scholars with much more seniority.

"This shows that PAS realizes the old guards don't have what it takes to win the votes and it realizes it must modernize with the times," Terence Chong, a fellow at Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore, told Reuters.

Shamsul Amir Baharuddin, a sociology lecturer at the National University of Malaysia, agreed.

"Definitely there is a call for change. Delegates want leaders who can deliver success. They want economic development," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"In their eyes, the old guard has failed and now they need the young to lead," he added.

PAS Youth wing has recently hit out at certain party leaders, calling on them to reinvent the party and warning that if the situation persisted, PAS would suffer from money politics, character assassination and pitting the conservatives against the moderates.

Chong, however, said was hard yet to say if the "new" PAS could pose a big threat to Badawi's coalition.

On June 3, PAS called on the nation's charismatic opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim to join hands and form an opposition alliance to challenge the ruling party's 48-year grip on power.

Unless pardoned by Malaysia's king, Anwar is banned from standing for office until April 2008 due to his criminal record.

The ex-deputy premier, jailed in 1999 on what he called trumped-up charges of corruption and sodomy, has said PAS should soften its Islamic stance to woo moderate Muslims and non-Muslim voters.

An opposition alliance would galvanize PAS, the Democratic Action Party and Parti Keadilan, led by Anwar's wife, into a force that could take on the ruling coalition.

Rising Star

Nasharudin, currently PAS secretary-general, is a rising star in the party although a relatively new face, according to The Star Online.

The UK graduate and former university lecturer, part of the young generation within the party, has been a long time supporter of PAS but only left his job for fulltime politics in 1999.

He represents the influx of young, dynamic professionals who pledged their commitment to PAS in 1998 following the Anwar's sacking.

Educated in Jordan and Britain, he speaks fluent Arabic, Bahasa Malaysia and English and has impressive networking skills.

But some among the old guard see him as a “parachute” politician, saying he is too young.

Nasharudin's supporters say he represents the future face of PAS – a scholar who is well educated and able to interact with the world outside PAS.

Consultative Meeting

The apparently new era comes one day after PAS invited the ruling UMNO for a consultative dialogue to discuss Islam Hadhari and other issues on Islam, the Star reported.

PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat proposed that UMNO be represented by its leader Premier Abdullah while he would lead the PAS side.

“The discussion can also touch on the economy, religion and other issues. It is logical for us to sit together to discuss matters that touch on the interpretation of religious matters,” he told reporters after the opening of the PAS convention.

Shortly before the general election last year, PAS had rejected a similar proposal from UMNO, according to the Star.

Terengganu UMNO liaison chief Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said PAS’s offer to hold could be a “trap” to cover up its own weaknesses.

He said the ruling party should be cautious in accepting the offer, questioning the sincerity of PAS president in making the offer.

UMNO Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin also questioned sincerity of the meeting offer, recalling that PAS imposed in the past various conditions on such meetings "so much so it could not be held”.

He said PAS could be making the offer to hoodwink the public following waning support for the party.


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