PAS and how it rose to become the party with the lion’s share of seats in Malaysia’s parliament
Among the factors that have helped the party include the savvy use of social media and the declining trust for Barisan Nasional and UMNO.
KANGAR, Perlis: The rise of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) could signal a sea of change in Malaysia’s political landscape, with its brand of religious politics becoming more attractive to many Malay Muslims, analysts said.
Dr Muhamad Nadzri Mohamed Noor, head of the Political Science Programme at National University of Malaysia said: “In the states controlled by PAS, especially in Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, where PAS has a supermajority, we might see much more Islamisation happen.”
The Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition clinched 73 seats in the general election that took place on Nov 19, with the majority – 49 – won by the Islamic party.
PAS, which backs a hardline interpretation of Islamic law, emerged as a surprisingly powerful party at the election, and has the greatest number of seats held by a single party in parliament.
Some residents in Perlis, formerly a Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold, whom CNA spoke to were attracted to the possibility of change.
“I feel that we need a government that leads us in a more Islamic direction. With the uncertain state of our country that we see now, we want religious scholars to be our leaders,” one voter told CNA.
However, there were concerns among some minority groups.
One Indian resident said: “It might get harder for us to get assistance now. Last time under BN, we could still get help even though it wasn’t much. We’re quite concerned, like if we’re excluded and things like that.”
PAS’ SHOWING AT MALAYSIA’S GENERAL ELECTION
Perlis was among PAS’ victories, along with Kedah. PAS swept all 14 seats in its stronghold state of Kelantan, and made history by bringing home all eight seats in Terengganu.
The party also made inroads outside of its traditional strongholds, including winning two seats in Penang, widely seen to be one of the most liberal states in the country.
“What did catch a lot of people by surprise is the wave that swept throughout the northern states, especially where a lot of the PKR heavyweights were defeated, a lot of Parti Amanah Negara heavyweights were also defeated,” said Ms Aira Azhari, senior manager of the Democracy and Governance Unit at independent think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.
“Not many people could have foreseen that.”
Both Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Amanah Negara are component parties of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
Voting for the last parliamentary seat in Malaysia will take place on Wednesday (Dec 7), with PN vying for the seat in a multi-cornered fight.
Voting for the Padang Serai seat in Kedah was delayed after the death of a PH candidate during campaigning.
PAS has been campaigning aggressively there by playing up racial and religious issues – tactics it used to great effect during the general election.
THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Factors at play in the surging tide that has lifted the nation into new territory include PN’s use of social media and Tiktok has become its “secret weapon”.
One video involving a swipe challenge by PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, for instance, has amassed more than 4 million views so far.
Dr Nadzri noted that many young religious teenagers use Tiktok as a platform for Dakwah, which refers to inviting people to embrace Islam, and for politics.
“During the GE, they used this platform much more aggressively and this helped PAS to get the support from the youths,” he said.
“When we check the voting trends among generations, most of the Malays, first-time voters, youth voters, they voted for PAS or Perikatan Nasional.”
Of the 6 million new voters in Malaysia’s 15th general election, about 1.4 million were young digital natives aged 18 to 20.
Another factor that has worked to the advantage of PN and PAS is the declining popularity of BN and its mainstay party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
“The trust in UMNO and BN has really gone down among the Malay electorate and that trust has shifted to PN, and especially to PAS,” Ms Aira said, adding that the court cases that the top UMNO leaders have been involved in have eroded trust within the Malay population.