Malaysia's PKR to look at polls, not PAS, at congress

KUALA LUMPUR (The Straits Times/ANN) - After split, speculation is rife over how PKR will govern Selangor state

Malaysia's opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) says it will focus on the next general election at its congress this weekend and not its relationship with former ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), despite intense speculation on how it will continue to govern Selangor state after severing ties with the Islamic party.

"The congress will focus on the election rather than talking about the PAS relationship," said PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution.

"We won't be driven to focus on this one issue," Saifuddin added.

These election issues are expected to centre on rallying the troops, and calling for policy changes in the ruling government based on common opposition themes such as eradicating corruption and kleptocracy.

PKR leaders say the congress will see delegates touch on allegations of financial mismanagement at Malay-based institutions such as national development agency Felda and Muslim pilgrims fund Tabung Haji.

The PAS issue, however, and its repercussions on PKR and its opposition coalition's expected performance at the polls, will likely remain the elephant in the room.

Since PAS' strongly worded decision to break off its political cooperation with PKR last week, pressure has mounted on Selangor PAS leaders to resign from their posts in the administration.

However, PAS has said its state executive councillors would not resign unless asked by Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali, who is also PKR deputy president, and the Selangor Sultan gives his consent.

"The question of resigning doesn't arise and our excos are holding to this... until there's a decision from the Sultan," said PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan.

PAS had repeatedly criticised PKR over its partnership with Chinese-led Democratic Action Party (DAP) and accused PKR of not prioritising Islam.

In response to PAS severing ties, PKR announced on Tuesday that all its political appointees in the north-eastern state of Kelantan would relinquish their posts, effective immediately.

According to local daily The Star, PKR has about 100 political appointees in Kelantan acting as municipal councillors, constituency coordinators, village headmen and board members of government-linked firms.

PKR has maintained a cordial relationship with PAS, offering olive branches in seat negotiations and political cooperation to team up at the polls.

However, PAS has stated it would face the election on its own, and has formed a "third bloc" alliance with a handful of lesser known parties.

At present, opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan holds a razor-thin majority of 29 out of the 56 seats in Malaysia's richest state, with 13 from PKR, 14 from DAP and two from Parti Amanah Negara - a splinter party of PAS. PAS has 13 assemblymen, while federal ruling party Umno has 12.

Analysts caution that PKR is at a disadvantage since PAS has a hold in rural areas. "PKR is simply not in a politically advantageous position to be overly harsh on PAS," said S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' senior fellow Oh Ei Sun.

PKR announced on Wednesday that it would hold off making decisions over PAS' position in Selangor until Azmin returns from his trip abroad.

Meanwhile, PAS said that it would be meeting Azmin soon to discuss state matters.


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