8:30pm 14/05/2023
Could PAS join the unity government?
By:Murray Hunter

While many are awaiting police action to be taken against PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang for his divisive remarks over race and religion, there are possibilities other things might be going on behind closed doors.

Anwar’s two dilemmas

The continual rumors of political instability within the unity government always fall back onto Umno as the source.

Umno directly controls only 30 seats in the unity government, but exercises influence as the majority party within the coalition.

This is forcing political focus towards issues such as pardons rather than important government issues of the day.

This political instability will definitely continue, especially with a continuing court case against Ahmad Zahid Hamidi over the next year.

In addition, electorally there is no chance the unity government will make any headway in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.

After the coming state elections, these three states will become complete PAS strongholds, with Penang and Selangor most probably seeing a larger PAS presence in those state assemblies.

Prime minister Anwar Ibrahim may well be on the way to solving these two dilemmas.

Over the last few weeks, there has been some low-key and symbolic meetings between Anwar and the late Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s sons, Nik Omar and Nik Muhammad Abduh.

Nik Muhammad is a PAS Central Committee member, while Nik Omar contested the last general election under PKR.

There are strained relations between both of them, so it was unusual they would be together in a meeting with Anwar.

In addition, Amanah leader Mat Sabu recently said that he wouldn’t be surprised if PAS reunites with DAP in the near future.

Does Mat Sabu know something we don’t?

We have precedents

PAS has a long relationship with Pakatan Harapan. Anwar’s newly formed PKR worked with both PAS and DAP in what was called Barisan Alternatif between 1999 and 2001.

They further worked together under Pakatan Rakyat between 2008 and 2015.

Anwar and Hadi were both leaders of the Islamic Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM).

Thus, there is a history of all parties working together. Even Amanah was a breakaway group from PAS when Pakatan Rakyat fell apart over the proposed implementation of hudud laws in Kelantan back in 2015.

The unity administration would become a 2-in-1 government. It can be Islamic, bumiputera-friendly, and mildly reformasi at the same time.

The objective of the unity government is to be a ‘stability’ government

After observing the unity government for almost six months, one thing is sure that it is not a reformasi government. The unity government’s primary objective is to bring stability to the government of Malaysia.

There is no way PH-BN components will be able to penetrate the Malay heartlands which makes up approximately 35 percent of parliamentary seats.

Umno’s influence has been absorbed by Bersatu. Amanah never took away from PAS the support it had hoped for. PKR’s traditional supporters are primarily urban based.

The only way the unity government can win the Malay heartlands is not through the ballot box.

The unity government can only bring PAS into the unity government as a member of the coalition.

There is already a formula for that, the DAP approach.

PAS becomes a member of the unity government, taking on a nominal number of ministries.

A Madani government

Such a government, with PAS incorporated, would become the Madani government that Anwar probably visualized, and would be comfortable with.

The government would have a blend of Islam and reformasi at the same time. This could be a win-win situation.

It worked with two Perikatan Nasional administrations under Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The unity administration would become a 2-in-1 government. It can be Islamic, bumiputera-friendly, and mildly reformasi at the same time.

This could be a winnable formula for the change Anwar supporters aspire to.

Political benefits

Such a move by PAS would pull the carpet from under Bersatu and banish them into irrelevance.

Umno’s influence in government would be greatly diminished.

This would be an outcome the monarchy and politicians could work with.

Court cases and pardons would cease to become an influence on the stability and very survival of the unity government.

Backroom deals could be abandoned. Federal-state relations in the Malaysian political context could be rebalanced, where Malaysia actually begins to operate like a real federation.

Malaysia would have to accept a mildly Islamic government as a compromise.

This could be the recipe for political stability.

This could be Anwar’s big game plan and challenge.

Anwar likes challenges, and has been keeping his cards close to his chest.

Anwar is one of the very few people in Malaysia who could pull off such a deal, and settle the divisiveness that besets the nation, since 1969.

If such a move could be achieved, this would be Anwar’s legacy.

(Murray Hunter has been involved in Asia-Pacific business for the last 40 years as an entrepreneur, consultant, academic and researcher. He was an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Perlis.)


Anwar Ibrahim
Murray Hunter
unity government


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