BANGKOK, Thailand: There has been much talk about prime minister Anwar Ibrahim being open to PAS joining the ‘unity government’. On face value, the invitation for PAS without the rest of Perikatan Nasional (PN), could be seen as a cheap attempt to drive a wedge between Bersatu and PAS.
Such an offer by Anwar would be read as being insulting to PN, rather than any form of ‘olive branch’, to seek formal or informal talks to seek PAS admission to the ‘unity government’.
However, conceptually the idea could have great merit and assemble what could be seen as the ‘natural government’ of Malaysia. A broad coalition representing the majority of ethnic and ideological interests across the nation would be a good thing.
This was offered to the whole PN just after the last general election, but was rejected strong by Muhyiddin Yassin and Abdul Hadi Awang.
With the 49 seats PAS holds in parliament, the ‘unity government’ would hold a super-majority. The substance of the government would not be much different from what it is now. It is perfectly clear, ‘reformasi’ has been thrown on the scrap heap by Pakatan Harapan (PH), in favour of the daily ad hoc management of government business. Foreign affairs, education, health, and economic policies would not change at all.
The government would be just the same. In fact, Malaysians have already had a taste of government under PAS during Muhyiddin and Ismail Sabi Yaakob’s administrations, not so long ago.
The solution to a massive problem
Malaysia’s biggest political problem is not a clash of ideologies, but a clash of personalities. Political instability has occurred at the federal level since GE14 in 2018, when Mahathir Mohamed became prime minister. Malaysia has had four prime ministers in 5 years. The most changes in leaders in any country within the region, if not the whole world.
If PAS entered the ‘unity government’ for the purpose of maintaining political stability, the political system would be the winner.
Malaysians would be confident knowing what their government really stood for. There would be no illusions that a ‘unity government’ would be one that shared power among the major stakeholders in government.
This would be a back to the future government, something like it was back in the 1980s and 1990s. Only the DAP and PKR would have a seat at the cabinet table after GE16.
However, PN believe very strongly that they can with some realignment of parties from Sabah and Sarawak, form a strong and stable government after GE16.
On the above premise, why should PN, or any party from within PN join the ‘unity government’? In four years, government will be theirs for the taking.
The ‘unity government’ needs PAS more than PAS needs the ‘unity government’. The failure to win over PAS will most probably mean that the current combination of political parties in government will not remain the same after the next general election.
Inviting PAS to join the ‘unity government’ is forward thinking on the part of PH-BN. It’s a strong option for survival. However, PAS will not take the bait, as it can be the dominating party in any coalition after GE16, and have the right to nominate their own prime minister.
The opportunity to get PAS (and PN aboard) passed in November 2022, when the ‘unity government’ was being formed. The ‘unity government’ must now look for a strategy to hold onto government in GE16. Their strategists realize there are few options available.