PAS has three chief ministers and 23 parliamentary seats, one of those seats being in Kuala Lumpur. We are not counting the state seats yet, but my God! (mind the pun) the party has arrived.
Or has it? Those seats and positions were won with the votes of people who would not have voted for them in normal times. Those votes came with conditions.
Historically there have been a large number of Malaysians opposed to the Alliance which transformed into the Barisan Nasional. And DAP and PAS were the only real opposition to BN from the 70s onwards.
The anti BN voter often faced this situation, being where the candidate is from PAS and the voter cannot vote for PAS because that means the voter supports and Islamic Malaysia. Second, the candidate is from DAP and a vote for DAP is a vote for Chinese chauvinism.
So many anti-BN voters end up voting BN because of their philosophical disagreements with DAP or PAS.
And then there is the other problem, when BN faces a DAP and PAS candidate in the same seat. The first past the post system ensures a win for the BN guy most often since the anti-BN vote is split between the two contesting parties.
The only thing constant is BN benefits.
The Pakatan Rakyat players this year agreed to have one on one contests.
However that alone will not win seats unless the anti-BN voter was willing to cross either the PAS religious line or DAP’s race line. And they did, and the popular vote count shows Pakatan Rakyat winning the majority of Peninsula votes.
Yet the crossing over of those who till recently had misgivings about the two parties was built on change.
That DAP becomes less chauvinistic and PAS toning down their commitment to an Islamic state.
The keen observer would ask, if PAS were to stop asking for an Islamic state, do they cease to become an islamic party?
Before we answer that we have to look at examples of other exclusive parties internationally.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started out with great hindu rigour, and were built themselves from the destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992. However their limited appeal to only the hindu electorate only forced them to expand their sphere of activity to non-hindus and more evidently tone down their hindu extremism.
They needed to in order to win mixed seats. If there are 30 percent muslims in your seat, which is common in the northern indian states, then alienating the 30 percent would help their opponents needing only a fraction of the hindu votes in order to beat the BJP candidate. That would be Congress.
BJP realised they needed to get Muslim votes, so they moderated themselves.
PAS needs non-muslim votes, have they started to moderate themselves?
The same can be said about right wing politicians in America. If you just want to be powerful in your own little corner, being an unforgiving Christian preacher with complete loathing of all things not Christian will be not a liability, in fact it will help.
However if you are looking at getting cross regional support for your candidacy, when you are running for president for instance, then you have to become a moderate.
Here in Malaysia
In Malaysia, staying true green will help PAS stay relevant in the Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu, plus in pockets elsewhere. But political parties do not join the game to be partially powerful, unless of course they set themselves only to be a regional political party. Like the Northern League in Italy who might share Pas’ xenophobia.
In parts the leadership of Pas have given in to multiculturalism and broad politics, since they work with DAP and other groups who are not high up there in their Islamic credentials.
But doing and saying are two different things. Pas are careful about upsetting the old guards in the party.
Nik Aziz is never in a rush and probably does not see being just a regional party being an impediment. He might be in parts.
Nothing comes easy in politics and all the gains Pas has made in the last general elections will be tested by the continuous chorus of asking them, have they lost their stomach for an Islamic state.
And they have to know whenever a religious party is not religious enough in the eyes of its followers than splinter groups will result.
PAS has had Berjasa before, and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had to compete with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because the former was not seemingly Islamic enough. And sure enough Abu Sayaf flanked MILF for being not extreme enough.
It is Pas’ strength that makes it tread very carefully, since any sign on weak weakness on the Islamic side is going to invite new suitors.
Guess you live by the sword, you….. well you get my drift.