KUALA LUMPUR,. Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders have played down talk of the potential destabilising effects of the Umno-PAS alliance in Perak and Kedah where the ruling coalition has a shaky hold on the state legislative assemblies.
This comes after Umno said it was pushing for a new “coalition government” with PAS in four states governed jointly by the two parties, and possibly extending that cooperation to Perak and Kedah where the merger could put PH in jeopardy.
Coalition leaders and political analysts, however, said whether or not the threat would materialise hinges on the Opposition’s ability to formulate a successful power-sharing formula.
PAS helms Kelantan and Terengganu while Umno, under Barisan Nasional (BN), controls Perlis and Pahang.
“We shouldn’t overly exaggerate their positions. It is natural for Opposition parties to cooperate, there is nothing unusual about it,” former PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang told Malay Mail.
“Whether the marriage is going to last until the next general election, we don’t know. Whether they are going to have a strict PH-like coalition that will contend one-to-one against the Opposition, we also don’t know yet.”
In the Perak state assembly, BN and PAS have 30 seats collectively while PH controls 29.
The situation is more complicated in Kedah, where the state assembly is split in half — both PH and the BN-PAS alliance have 18 seats each.
PH has majority control of the two state assemblies thanks to backdoor informal arrangements that saw PAS giving implicit support.
But coalition leaders like Federal Territories Minister and Amanah leader Khalid Samad said he did not foresee the Umno-PAS alliance coalition resulting in an abrupt power change.
Any attempt to unseat the current state governments must first go through voters who are likely to reject a “right wing Malay and religious extremist coalition”, he argued.
Yet he conceded that PH could stare at a messy political chasm if the merger in BN- and PAS-controlled states succeeds, and the two parties decide to push for control in Perak and Kedah.
“Yes, the two state governments are not as strong,” he said in a text reply to Malay Mail.
PAS and Umno declared their alliance officially last week to mark a political cooperation that both parties expect to last until the 15th general election, although it is unclear if the arrangement is limited to a mere electoral pact or beyond.
BN acting chairman and Umno acting president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said following the announcement that PAS was not joining the BN coalition.
How this will pan out for BN remains unclear should the proposed unity government idea go through.
Azmi Hussin, geostrategist with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said the vague terms of cooperation underscored the nervy relationship between the two former political foes, whose rivalry spanned decades.
“Umno and PAS need to prove first that they have what it takes to form a unity government before they can take over Perak and Kedah,” he said.
Ibrahim Suffian, who runs respected pollster Merdeka Center, said Umno and PAS must also contend with an enemy that could leverage on its incumbency.
“It’s not so easy for PAS and Umno to wrest away Kedah and Perak in the infra election period,” he told Malay Mail, noting that as a government, PH can do more to help lawmakers deliver services to constituencies.
“As the federal government, PH still has a lot of levers to pull to prevent that… it can provide better incentives for any wavering lawmakers who are contemplating jumping over,” he added.