The November 19 general elections in Malaysia did not produce a clear winner but there was an unmistakable development: the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) emerged with the largest number of seats in parliament.
What started as a media manufactured rift in Malaysia’s Islamic Party (PAS) soon became real after its top leader openly condemned a section of the leadership who has been in talks with the ruling UMNO.
In the ongoing political drama that has played out over the last decade, more so since the opposition’s impressive gains in last year’s general elections, the government imposed a three-month ban on one of the country’s most widely circulated newspaper, Harakah, the bilingual voice of the Islamic Party (PAS), which now controls two of the five states the opposition alliance captured last year.
By-elections in Malaysia are fought with the same vigor, if not more, as the general election. Why this is so remains a mystery, especially when the ruling party still has a comfortable majority in parliament despite the drubbing it got in the general elections last March.
It has become a political tradition for the performance of a government to be evaluated once it has been in power for a period of some three months or a hundred days. This is usually taken as the time required for the new administration to bed itself in; problems encountered before this time has elapsed can often be conveniently attributed to the previous regime.
The rise and fall of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) seem to be tied to its arch-rival United Malay National Organisation (UMNO). Now that UMNO’s worst crisis is over with the end of the Anwar Ibrahim saga, all indications are that PAS is declining, with even party leaders becoming defensive when trying to answer accusations that the party has lost its direction.