Malaysia’s Opposition Bloc Breaks Up

By Nani Yusof
2015.06.16
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150616-my-dap-620 Lim Guan Eng, secretary-general of Malaysia’s opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), addresses a rally at a stadium in Kuala Lumpur, July 19, 2009.
AFP

The most powerful member of the Malaysian opposition pulled out of the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) coalition on Tuesday, ending a seven-year alliance and fracturing the political landscape of Malaysia.

The Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) withdrawal came in response to a decision made by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) at its general assembly earlier this month to cut links with the DAP, party Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng said Tuesday.

The failure of PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang to consult coalition allies in its push to implement a sharia penal code known as hudud in northern Kelantan state was another factor.

PAS thereby violated a protocol it had agreed to when the parties, along with the People’s Justice Party (PKR), formed a coalition in April 2008 that rested on the principles of consensus and mutual trust, Guan Eng said in a statement.

“This breach of promise by Hadi was followed by the momentous decision on 6th June 2015, when the PAS Muktamar, the general assembly and the highest authority of the party, accepted without debate a motion to sever ties with the DAP,” said Guan Eng, chief minister of Penang state.

“The DAP Central Executive Committee accepts the PAS Muktamar’s motion …,” he added.

“As Pakatan Rakyat was formed by the three parties based on consensus and bound by the Common Policy Framework, the PAS Muktamar’s motion effectively killed off Pakatan Rakyat. Pakatan Rakyat therefore ceases to exist.”

‘Still with Pakatan’

Reacting to DAP’s announcement, Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz, who heads PAS’ youth wing, said the Pakatan Rakyat still was technically intact because partner PKR had yet to issue its own decision on the state of the alliance.

"We are still with Pakatan. DAP's decision will not dissolve the coalition. It was DAP's decision and we are not leaving PR," he told reporters in the lobby of parliament on Tuesday, according to The Malaysian Insider.

Later, officials from PAS and PKR held an emergency meeting that lasted into Wednesday morning (local time). Afterwards, PAS officials did not comment publically but PKR President Wan Azizah Wan Ismail issued a statement.

“The problem that exists in the Pakatan Rakyat requires immediate attention of the leaders and should be addressed with the utmost tact,” her statement said.

Shaking up politics

Tuesday’s announcement by the DAP leaves Malaysia’s opposition fragmented at the national level.

The opposition bloc had succeeded in winning the popular vote in the 2013 general election, but the ruling bloc and Prime Minister Najib Razak were able to hold on to power through gerrymandering.

DAP’s withdrawal also has implications at the state level. The balance of political power has been fractured in Selangor and Penang, where the Pakatan Rakyat controlled the state legislatures.

At the federal level, the DAP, whose membership is largely drawn from Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese minority, holds 37 seats in parliament, compared with 28 and 21seats held by PKP and PAS, respectively.

In recent weeks and months, the DAP had feuded with PAS over the hudud issue.

PAS has been pushing for hudud to be implemented in Kelantan, which it controls, for Muslims only. Under hudud, violators would face a set of harsh corporal punishments under sharia law, including amputations, stoning and crucifixion.

Critics, however, have warned that enforcing these sharia punishments at the state level could ultimately divide the nation along religious and ethnic lines.

Both DAP and the multi-racial PKR had also fought with PAS over the Islamic party’s reluctance to let PKR President Wan Azizah Wan Ismail stand for recent by-elections.

"The decision that [Pakatan Rakyat] has ceased to exist is not an act of defeatism but one to recognize the present reality buoyed by hope and confidence in the future," The Malaysian Inisider quoted DAP parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang, Guan Eng’s father, as saying Tuesday.

There was now an opportunity for a “realignment of political forces” in the Malaysia ahead of the next general election, due to take place in 2017 at the earliest, Lim said.

"Malaysians must now move on as there is no time to lose on polemics, so as to rekindle the hopes of Malaysians who want change and assure them that such a possibility is still alive and relevant in the 14th general election," he said.

Hata Wahari and H. Aleeya contributed to this report.

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