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Anwar, PAS dismiss speculation in Malaysia on coalition exit

A leaked screenshot of a group chat has bolstered speculation that Malaysia’s Islamic party PAS may be leaving opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat. But the Selangor branch of PAS and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim have dismissed the speculation.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Wednesday (July 30) dismissed speculation that Islamic party PAS could be leaving the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat.

The Selangor branch of PAS on Wednesday also assured its Pakatan Rakyat partners that it will remain in the coalition "whatever the circumstances". 

"There was no discussion on the matter whatsoever and Selangor PAS is committed and loyal to Pakatan Rakyat," said Mohd Khairuddin Othman, secretary of Selangor PAS. 

A leaked screenshot of a conversation on instant messaging application WhatsApp had reportedly showed PAS central committee members discussing the possibility of leaving Pakatan, and joining forces with federal ruling party UMNO.

But Mohd Khairuddin said: "We have no track record of our Anggota Dewan Undangan Negeri (state assemblymen) crossing to UMNO or BN whatsoever. And we will maintain it.” 

In 2008, PAS had banded with Anwar Ibrahim's People's Justice Party and the Democratic Action Party, creating the first real threat to UMNO and Barisan Nasional's reign since independence.

But in the years since, differing political ideologies and views have exposed cracks in the opposition alliance. In the leaked WhatsApp chat, one PAS member suggested by leaving Pakatan, the Islamic party would be able to easily dismiss DAP, churches and non-Muslims if they talk about using the word "allah", or the seizure of Bibles containing the word by state religious authorities.

Political analyst Keith Leong said: "By cooperating with Pakatan Rakyat, which is essentially a multiracial coalition, it has gained the best success it's ever had in a long, long time, if not ever. But again you have this ideological currently in PAS which is suspicious of working with non-Muslims, suspicious of working with the secular opposition."

The latest rift within the coalition is thought to have escalated with the People's Justice Party's plans to replace Khalid Ibrahim as the chief minister of Pakatan-ruled Selangor. In the leaked conversation, one PAS member reportedly said working with UMNO could help the party retain Khalid as head of Malaysia's richest state.

But Leong said working with UMNO could be a doomed alliance.

"The fact is that UMNO and PAS both graze in the same field - they both need Malay support to win so for them to actually work together in the long run, I don't think it's going to work. Of course they would for political expediency but it wouldn't last long," he said.

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