By Mohsin Abdullah
So Umno and PAS have decided to register Muafakat Nasional officially with the Registrar of Societies.
The announcement was made via a statement jointly signed by Umno's Tan Sri Annuar Musa and PAS' Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan who addressed themselves as Muafakat Nasional's secretary-general one and two respectively.
The statement make no mention of Bersatu, whose president is Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Back in August, Umno and PAS invited Bersatu to join Muafakat Nasional and the party accepted.
Muhyiddin then said Bersatu agreed to join Muafakat Nasional which would support Perikatan Nasional as a grand coalition.
And he was quoted as saying "Insya Allah (God willing) Bersatu's participation in Muafakat Nasional will be finalized soon."
And Annuar was on record saying Umno and PAS had agreed to accept Bersatu as a member of Muafakat Nasional.
But now this. The statement of wanting to make Muafakat Nasional an official organization "soon", apparently or obviously, depending on how one looks at it, without Bersatu.
That's the logical "reading" of the situation taking into account the statement as said earlier does not mention Bersatu at all.
The joint statement by Annuar and Takiyuddin came amidst the postponement of three important political meetings: the Umno supreme council meeting (scheduled for Oct 20), the Bersatu supreme council meeting (also on Oct 20) and the Muafakat Nasional steering committee meeting (on Oct 19).
Like the Umno supreme council meeting, the Muafakat Nasional meeting was called off due to CMCO restrictions. It would have been attended by Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang. The meeting was expected to discuss Bersatu's participation in Muafakat Nasional.
Although the joint statement by Annuar and Takiyuddin said the leadership of Umno and PAS had agreed to officially register Muafakat Nasional, it did not state when the decision was made.
Long-time PAS watcher and political writer Mohd Sayuti Omar can't help but wonder whether the statement was actually an agreement between Annuar and Takiyuddin only, considering both are seen as the driving force in the Umno-PAS cooperation.
Sayuti is asking this: "Can it be said that what's in the statement is something temporary as the Muafakat meeting has been postponed and thus the decision as announced in the joint statement seems not to have been endorsed by leaders of Umno and PAS?"
But to a number of political observers, Annuar and Takiyuddin would not have come up with the statement in the first place without the knowledge, blessing and approval of their higher-ups. Agree.
Therefore, based on the statement the big question is where does all this put Bersatu? Is Bersatu out in the cold?
At the time of writing, the party has not issued any reaction yet.
Nevertheless, according to Sayuti, the decision to formalize Muafakat Nasional minus Bersatu "is to show that Umno and PAS are dismissing any notion of downplaying the importance of Muafakat Nasional just because Perikatan Nasional is registered earlier."
A quick recap. In September the RoS was reported confirming Perikatan Nasional as a registered entity.
But more importantly, said Sayuti, the Annuar-Takiyuddin statement is to allay concerns of certain quarters especially within Umno who are uneasy with PAS already officially being part of Perikatan Nasional.
However, if I may ask, what will PAS' position be in Perikatan Nasional when the Muafakat Nasional is registered as an official organization? Will the party leave Perikatan Nasional then? Or will it be in both coalitions as what the party seems to be very fond of? What will Umno have to say about it then?
Umno, as we know, has always said its support for Perikatan Nasional is only until the next general election. The party's continuous support is subject to Bersatu, i.e. Muhyiddin accepting new conditions it has drawn up recently.
Still, judging from sentiments of the Umno grassroots, the "leaning" is for Umno to break away from Bersatu, i.e. Perikatan Nasional. There's no love lost between Umno and Bersatu. That's out in the open for ages, so to speak. A big decision was to have been made at the supreme council meeting on Oct 20, the one which was postponed.
The postponement of the three important meetings mentioned earlier shows there are a thousand and one things yet to be settled by Umno, Bersatu and Muafakat Nasional for that matter.
The political situation is fluid. Nothing is certain at this moment. The only certainty is the uncertainty itself.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)