Kelantan Umno believes that it will do much better in this general election than in 2008 because the 'silent' educated Malay majority are uncertain if Pakatan Rakyat can offer 'stable' governance.
KOTA BARU: Do not underestimate Umno in Kelantan although the state is long regarded as a PAS stronghold due to the presence of the long-serving Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.
Kelantan Umno liaison committee treasurer Hanafi Mamat said in this coming general election, the odds and sentiments are more favourable towards Umno despite PAS’ “trump card” in Nik Aziz.
The frail but politically strong Nik Aziz is now the second longest-serving menteri besar in the country after Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
Having been at the helm since 1990, Nik Aziz, 82, has been largely persuaded to lead Kelantan PAS into the next election, but this time around, the party is bogged down with issues related to its common policies and ideology under Pakatan Rakyat.
It is believed that PAS’ progressives, who are supporters of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and Nik Aziz, are not on the same page with the conservatives led by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
This has led to a sense of discomfort within the Islamist party.
According to Hanafi, the PAS of today is not as united as previously because it cannot locate a clear direction in its policies.
On the one hand is its loyalty to Pakatan, which is largely the brainchild of Anwar and the Chinese-dominated DAP elites such as its adviser Lim Kit Siang and secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, he said.
This loyalty may undermine the party’s fundamental commitment towards championing everything under Islam, Hanafi said.
Malay political clout?
Citing an example, Hanafi said PAS’ stance on Islam is now compromised since DAP is dead set against the introduction of any Islamic state concept while Anwar has stated his official stance over the issue.
And on the other hand is the PAS conservatives who do not want the party to be swept away by any anti-Anwar or anti-DAP movements, which are largely emerging from within the Malay community, Hanafi said.
Yet another sentiment which has engulfed the middle-class Malays is whether the Malay political clout would be diluted if Pakatan comes into power, as the actions of DAP, and the Anwar-led PKR and PAS have not sparked any confidence in the community, he said.
“It is not racialism but a genuine concern among the Malays about their future under Pakatan. Our educated lot are wondering as a silent majority if Pakatan offers a stable and long-term commitment towards upholding their political rights and needs.”
Furthermore, most of the Malays are employed in the public sector unlike the Chinese and Indians, who are largely reliant on the private sector’s enterprises, he said.
Kelantan Umno’s confidence is also buoyed by localised issues, which dominate the state’s colourful political scene, Hanafi said.
Among the local issues are the lack of diversification in the state’s economy, which is largely still driven by timber exports, cross-border trade, services and agriculture.
This makes the economy relatively poorer when compared to other states such as Penang, which is industrialised, Hanafi said.
Then, the people are fed up with the lack of new policies by PAS. Underground vice in Kelantan
They have noticed that each time an election dawns, the PAS-led state government would begin talking and imposing religious guidelines such as proclaming their wish to impose hudud (syariah criminal law enactments), Hanafi observed.
However, many of its Islamist policies have failed such as separating the checkout counters at supermarkets between male and female customers, the strict adherence to donning “tudung” (head scaves) for female Muslims and banning of entertainment or gambling, Hanafi said.
Both, entertainment and gambling activities are available in the state’s underground social scene, he claimed.
“It is an open-secret among residents here.”
Voters in other states may opt for a change as they are fed up of BN but in Kelantan, one must be reminded that PAS has ruled for 22 years, and the people here are getting restless of the incumbents, who cannot develop the state well enough, Hanafi said.
PAS remains the favourite to retain the state as it has the services of Nik Aziz and the incumbency factor, but Umno should fare better than it last did in 2008, Hanafi said.
An upset may also occur as Kelantan Umno does not have major issues of its own unlike in previous campaigns, he added.