World

Umno gives mandate to Najib to form pact with PAS

KUALA LUMPUR Umno information chief Annuar Musa said the party has given the mandate to its president, Prime Minister Najib Razak, to negotiate an electoral pact with opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the first time the idea of an alliance between the two biggest political parties in Malaysia has been floated.

He said such a pact will be supported by many Malays concerned about Malay unity.

The Malay vote, for decades split between Umno and PAS, is now divided five ways with the entry of Parti Keadilan Rakyat led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, PAS splinter Parti Amanah Negara, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Umno is open to cooperation with PAS despite being openly snubbed by it recently, Mr Annuar told reporters after attending an Umno event in Kuala Lumpur on Monday evening.

"(The door) is open in terms of having electoral cooperation with PAS. We have given the full mandate to the President," he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.

Mr Annuar did not elaborate on how the two parties may go about facing the general election if they formed a pact, a crucial issue for the opposition as PAS has threatened to contest in most seats.

This would result in three-cornered fights involving the ruling Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN), PAS and the main opposition alliance, which will likely hand victory to BN.

PAS, which aims to turn Malaysia into its version of a strict Islamic state, has been inching closer to Malay nationalist party Umno since leaving an opposition alliance in June 2015. Both parties have found common cause in Islamic issues.

The presidents of PAS and Umno - Mr Abdul Hadi Awang and Mr Najib, respectively - have sat side by side at several public functions, a move lauded by conservatives seeking "Muslim unity".

With most Chinese voters seen to be firmly behind the opposition parties, putting the two Malay Muslim parties in one basket - even as an informal pact - could spike further the rhetoric on race and religion, and weaken non-Malay representation in government. - THE STRAITS TIMES

politicsRace & Religionelection