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Pro-ulama group fails to make inroads

Posted: 23 Nov 2013 11:44 AM PST


The failure of the pro-ulama group in PAS to wrest back the No. 2 post from Mohamad Sabu is a signal that the party wants to go mainstream rather than pursue its original Islamic agenda.

Joceline Tan, The Star

IT's hard to keep hot news a secret and by late afternoon, the word was that Mohamad Sabu had won. But no one would have been able to foretell that looking at him the last few days.

The normally cheery and talkative PAS politician has not been his usual self. He was at the side of his president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang for most of the events including the daily press conferences but did not utter a word.

No comment, no smile, no expression – Mat Sabu has been like a coiled-up spring since the muktamar began.

At about 5pm, when incumbent vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar took a short-cut through the media centre to the prayer room, reporters called out, "Tahniah, Datuk!"

The word was that he had won but the tall and lanky Mahfuz claimed he had not heard anything and almost ran out of the door.

He was not acting because when Election Commission chairman Asmuni Awi went on stage to announce the results, he said the votes for the vice-presidents' contest were still being tallied. It was greeted by loud groans from the media crowd.

Apparently, there was a request for a recount and the result for the vice-presidents will only be known today.

The outcome of the most intense election campaign in the history of PAS has been a severe blow to the pro-ulama group in PAS. They failed despite a fierce campaign to wrest back the deputy president post for one of their own.

Mat Sabu polled 588 votes to defeat ulama candidate and Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah who secured 490 votes. It was a credible margin.

His victory is no small feat. He was up against the moral might of the ulama who painted him as an interloper who took a post that ought to have gone to an ulama. He also had to endure a bruising attack on his religious beliefs.

But he is quite aware that winning again is only going to make the pro-ulama group more resentful and he tried to downplay the win, saying that it was a contest among the jemaah or the Muslim family.

His post-victory body language was a contrast from when he first won the deputy president post in 2011. It had been his second try back then and he was openly delighted to have pipped two big ulama names for the post.

He was rather subdued this time around because he was aware of the raw emotions out there.

The real challenge for Mat Sabu actually lies ahead. The party was clearly split down the middle over the contest for the No. 2 post. It is hard to see how he will be able to reach out to the other side and to bring them around to some common ground.

The 18 Central Working Committee (CWC) posts were quite evenly divided between those from the pro-Erdogan camp and the ulama group.

The man to watch from the CWC line-up is Idris Ahmad, a hardline ulama figure from Perak. He was the top scorer securing 927 votes from among the 1,000-plus delegates. He nudged the former top scorer and Felda activist Mazlan Aliman into second place with 840 votes.

The attacks against the pro-Erdogan group also appears to have limited impact and the main protagonists from among them were re-elected.

It means that the delegates want the party to continue the journey that it started in 2008 and that means working with DAP and PKR. They have tasted power through Pakatan Rakyat and they want more.

It looks like PAS has reached the point of no return. Instead of redefining the party's role in Pakatan, the party may have to redefine its policy of leadership by the ulama.

The once powerful and influential ulama cliche will have to accept that a non-ulama may one day be the president of PAS.

The ballot paper blunder will also haunt PAS for a while to come. It was basically a careless mistake done when the ballots for the 62 CWC candidates were being collated to voting booklets.

About 15 people had voted when one of the delegates raised the alarm. He could not find the ballot paper for former Youth chief Nasrudin Tantawi.

Another booklet contained double ballots for a woman candidate Dr Najihatusolehah Ahmad.

Voting for the CWC was immediately halted but that for the deputy and vice-presidents posts continued.

It was very embarrassing considering that it involved only 1,000-plus voters or delegates and 62 candidates. It was also a humbling lesson for PAS which has been a fierce critic of the Election Commission.

Asmuni later told colleagues that "now, I know what the Election Commission goes through".

Asmuni, a lawyer with a quaint Beatles hairdo, had looked stressed-out when met on the morning of the election. He had said then that it was a "high blood pressure job". The polls fiasco must have caused his blood pressure to shoot up further. To his credit, he offered to resign immediately but was told to continue.

One of the happiest man yesterday was probably Datuk Dr Mahfodz Mohamad, the PAS commissioner for Johor. He got to go up on stage to announce that the Sultan of Johor had decreed Friday as the weekend for the state.

Friday is the holiest day of the week for Muslims and a motion to thank Tuanku Johor was passed with immediate effect by the muktamar with three cries of "Takbir!" And "Allahuakbar!" 


Perhaps Pas could look to Umno for polls tips?

Posted: 23 Nov 2013 09:29 AM PST


Adrian Lai, NST 

WHAT was supposed to be a straightforward party election turned into an embarrassing and drawn-out affair for Pas at its 59th muktamar when the voting process was marred by a technical glitch on Friday.

The complication, which the party said was because of "mistakes in the ballot papers", left the party red-faced when its 1,129 frustrated delegates were forced to recast their ballots yesterday to decide the line-up of the party's central working committee (CWC).

The unforeseen boo-boo, besides causing massive delay to the day's proceedings, ultimately resulted in dire repercussions of Pas suffering markedly dented democratic credentials.

At 4.30pm on Friday, the thousand-plus delegates were instructed to cast their ballots and elect the party's new deputy presi-dent, three vice-presidents and 18 central working committee members.

However, eyebrows were raised when Pas' election committee chairman Asmuni Awi stopped the voting process less than an hour after it started.

Explaining the sudden turn of events, Asmuni had said voting had to be stopped after detecting "mistakes in the ballot papers", and that the voting process for the CWC posts would restart with the right ballot papers yesterday morning.

Asmuni said the flawed ballot papers for the CWC posts had been cast before the mistakes were detected.

Those votes would not be counted and delegates were required to vote for the affected posts again.

Voting for the other contested posts, namely the deputy president and vice-president posts, was, however, continued.

To everyone's surprise, Asmuni and the election committee members had, on Friday, offered their resignations over the technical glitch, but were told by the party's top leadership to continue with their work and see the election process through.

"After discovering the error, we wanted to resign en masse, as we felt that we had failed to accomplish our duties well.

"Nonetheless, the election process must continue to ensure that doubts about the election's legitimacy do not arise," Asmuni told delegates in an apologetic tone yesterday.

The delegates, however, were not too impressed with the goings-on.

Firdaus Masood, a Pas delegate from Johor who was debating the party president's opening speech, slammed the irony of the situation, as many of them had previously taken the Election Commission to task in the past via the Bersih and Blackout rallies.

"It is disheartening to see that irregularities have occurred in our own party election.

"We hope that it will not happen again," he said.


PAS’s new old Putrajaya team

Posted: 23 Nov 2013 09:25 AM PST


Sheridan Mahavera, TMI 

PAS does not believe in hype. That was one thing that a PAS grassroots leader said was what members have described as the most vicious (by its standards) party elections.

The second is that the grassroots reward hardworking, articulate, outward-looking leaders who do not just preach to the converted.

Party members with whom The Malaysian Insider spoke believe these were among the considerations they used to choose the people who will lead the party into its quest for federal power in the next three years.

The 18-member central working committee, the party's highest decision-making body, which emerged last night was almost a carbon copy of the previous one that had steered the party into the 13th General Election.

It was CWC that was stocked with three groups: the so-called professionals, religious teachers and scholars, and activists.

Only four of the CWC members are new. And they were religious teachers who replaced mostly other religious teachers.

Yet the social media campaign waged in the months leading up to the elections framed it as a war between the party's conservatives and its progressives.

The talk was that the conservatives were staging a comeback into the CWC, which had been dominated by progressives.

But the results, said PAS leaders, showed that the grassroots liked the formula of an urbane, open-minded PAS that worked hand-in-glove with Pakatan Rakyat allies, PKR and DAP, and wanted to deepen its ties with mainstream Malaysian society.

The results, which also saw veteran political organiser Mohamad Sabu being retained as deputy president, were an endorsement and acknowledgement of the old CWC's track record in leading PAS in the last general election, said PAS Kuala Kedah division leader Nasir Zakaria.

By re-electing the same people, Nasir said, the grassroots acknowledged the hard work its leaders had put into expanding PAS support and winning seats despite the fact that it fared badly among rural Malay Muslims.

"It's a realisation that our party is strong internally and that the challenges are external. Our loss of rural Malay Muslim support was not due to us but because we could not counter all the BR1M (1Malaysia People's Aid)," said Nasir.

He also pointed to the fact that unlike what had been depicted in the pro-Umno media and in  social media, the grassroots were not swayed by talk that PAS was losing its way because it was ruled by progressives.

"It just shows that all this talk about ulama versus Erdogans versus professionals was just nonsense created by outsiders". 


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