Malaysia: What we learnt from PAS’ show of strength – 2 Oct 2017

  • IT was undeniable that tens of thousands of people turned up for PAS’ two-day Fastaqim 2.0 mega-gathering in Terengganu over the weekend, which was a testament to its ability to mobilise and draw vast numbers of supporters from across the country.
  • What is less clear is what the Islamist party achieved other than a show of force.
  • Aimed at showcasing its strength after parting ways from its allies in Pakatan Harapan, and losing its progressive members and leaders to splinter party Amanah, the Fastaqim (uprising) was PAS’ vehicle to announce that it was no spent force and would be leading a third political bloc, Gagasan Sejahtera, which comprised smaller parties Ikatan, Berjasa and Parti Cinta Malaysia.
  • PAS has shown it is still able to pull in large numbers of supporters to gatherings. The party has 880,000 members and played an important role in drawing in the crowds as past Bersih 2.0 rallies that it participated in. PAS members who turned up for the Fastaqim came from all parts of the peninsula, not just Terengganu.
  • PAS also drew on the strength and manpower of its affiliated entity, Pusat Asuhan Tunas Islam (PASTI), which runs kindergarten services. PASTI teachers were required to attend the rally, and brought their spouses and children along. PAS runs religious schools and its wealthier members fund tahfiz schools, many of which required the students and teachers to attend.
  • PAS is able to mobilise a volunteer workforce and at relatively little cost. Many supporters appeared to come to the Fastaqim on their own dime. Families travelled together in vehicles and tens of thousands of youths arrived on their motorcycles. No fuel or food chits were given out and many PAS members stayed in the homes of other members in Kuala Terengganu during the duration of the gathering.
  • Despite the grand show of strength, no one is the wiser on how the party actually plans to fight in the 14th general elections. No mention was made by the party’s leadership on seat distributions and the number of seats targeted other than Hadi’s comment that “as many (seats) as possible” would be contested.
  • It also remains to seen, whether a large membership base can translate into votes, seats and power. PAS has the second largest membership among political parties in the country, trailing Umno’s 3 million members. Yet the Islamist party has 14 parliamentary seats, compared to DAP’s 36, despite just having about half a million members. Analysts expect PAS to contest at least 83 seats in Peninsular Malaysia or as many as 140 seats nationwide.
  • There was no mention on who PAS thinks its main enemy is either. Hadi never mentioned the Pakatan Harapan (PH) component parties by name in his speech. Throughout the two-day rally, the largely Chinese-based party was the singular name that was mentioned as PAS’ foe. And yet, it is unlikely that PAS will face DAP in direct contests.

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