PAS stands to gain most from Bersatu rebellion

Kenneth Cheng Chee Kin

Thanks to the Bersatu rebellion, PAS is now bigger and more relevant than ever. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 19, 2023.

AFTER months of sombre politics, during which the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional government was perceived to be lacking in reforms and exciting legislation or policies to inspire the public, it’s no wonder PH supporters, starved of positivity, are delighted to see the the switch of support by the Bersatu Four.

Even those who had criticised party defections have been strangely muted in their reactions, suggesting a change of mind on the subject of party hopping now that the move benefits their side.

As I emphasised in my earlier column, regardless of how the Labuan, Kuala Kangsar, Gua Musang, and Jeli MPs frame their decisions, they have betrayed the mandate of their constituents, to borrow previous language.

In fact, their justifications for jumping ship is not at all different from those of Xavier Jayakumar and Larry Tsng, both of whom switched parties during the Muhyiddin Yassin government in 2021

Perhaps it is why some people feel uneasy and frustrated with the Anwar Ibrahim administration.

Despite having led the reform coalition to power, Anwar has not produced any substantial changes. His government appears to be merely copying the underhanded tactics of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Bersatu Four are alleged to have been either pressured or bribed into supporting the current prime minister, not unlike the  a playbook reminiscent of the situation where the MACC was perceived to have played a role in pushing Xavier Jayakumar towards Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Bersatu Four are alleged to have either been pressured or bribed into supporting the current prime minister, much like how it was alleged that the MACC had played a role in persuading Jayakumar to back  Muhyiddin.

PH supporters who were once outraged by Jayakumar’s betrayal should consider apologising to the former Kuala Langat MP if they know condone the defections of the Bersatu Four.

At this point, one would wonder whether it would benefit the government to take the quartet into its fold.

While Muhyiddin’s attempts woo more MPs to his side are indefensible, one may argue that the prime minister at the time had only a wafer-thin majority. No one would deny that a couple more votes in parliament might have extended the lifespan of his administration or even delayed Umno rebellion led by Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

However, the same cannot be said for the latest round of defections.

While the four Bersatu rebels may benefit from the funding reserved for government MPs, it remains unclear how the addition of these four to the other side of the aisle would help the Anwar administration, which already enjoys a two-thirds majority. The extra seats will not resolve the prime minister’s problem of a lack of Malay support.

The only possible advantage that PH could gain from these defections would be the decline of Bersatu, the prospect of which some quarters are relishing.

However, PH should be careful what it wishes for as events may not necessarily unfold the way it wants.

Since the PAS culling of Mohamad Sabu and his moderate faction, the Islamist party has demonstrated an impermeable solidarity that makes its MPs reject defections and infighting.

Abdul Hadi Awang and his leadership do not get enough credit for creating this unity.

As a party with ambitions to take over Putrajaya, PAS must be be content to see Bersatu diminished.

The dismantling of Bersatu would only strengthen PAS’ position in PN, causing Muhyiddin’s party to become even more reliant on the largesse of Hadi.

It would be different if Bersatu had the power of high office to stay relevant, but chances are PAS will continually eat into Bersatu’s territory and even argue for more seats now that Bersatu’s MPs have proved to be ill-disciplined.

Bickering among the Kedah and Perlis state governments, resulting in PAS getting its way all the time, implies a faltering relationship, and one that PAS will dominate.

The emergence of technocrats such as Ahmad Samsuri, who is the Terengganu menteri besar and now the parliamentary candidate for Kemaman, should be a cause for concern for a weakened Bersatu. Should Ahmad win, PAS would be able demonstrate its ability to govern nationally through his competence as a policymaker. What can Bersatu bring to the table for PN?

Ironically, by enfeebling Bersatu, PH has helped to make PAS more relevant and bigger than before. – November 19, 2023.

* Kenneth Cheng has always been interested in the interplay between human rights and government but more importantly he is a father of two cats, Tangyuan and Toufu. When he is not attending to his feline matters, he is most likely reading books about politics and human rights or playing video games. He is a firm believer in the dictum “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”.

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