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Conflict in Pakatan - malaysiakini

Malaysiakini has covered several of the conflicting stances of the members of Pakatan rakyat, especially beteen PAS and DAP. The Malaysian Insider reports:

KUALA LUMPUR: Nine months into the March 8 general election the Pakatan Rakyat coalition remains a loose, opportunistic grouping whose three partners are beginning to show some serious differences even on such minor issues like the appointment of Madam Low Siew Moi as PKNS general manager.

This is the same Pakatan coalition that had announced that it would seize power through engineering defections from BN backbenchers and form a new egalitarian government minus race and discrimination.

But things are beginning to unravel differently with numerous disputes and differences emerging among PR political parties to the disappointment of civil society activists and ordinary people.

The "Madam Low incident" has exposed some Malaysians to the fact that Pas may not be as liberal as they thought the Islamist party had become.

Numerous comments on blogs and websites are beginning to lambast PR, especially PKR and PAS.

Even PR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is coming in for criticism for his "elegant silence" in the face of so many statements, even from his own MP Zulkifli Noordin, that Malays, Islam and ketuanan Melayu comes first and not Ketuanan Rakyat, the PR's political agenda.

"What's the difference between PR and BN," said one writer in the Peoples Parliament website. Another writer in the same website summed it up, "Underneath the scales, it's still fish."

As they increasingly wash dirty linen in public the people who had voted for them in overwhelming numbers, are getting disappointed and beginning to see the reality behind the rhetoric.

It was not always like this.

Guided by Anwar, PAS had willingly dropped its Islamic state demands and cleverly toned down its stringent views on other matters - from Hudud laws, religious conversion and freedom of religion - in the run up to the general election.

Anwar also cleverly got the DAP and PAS to work together at least to share seats and vote for each other's candidates, and after the election to help narrow differences and form the coalition governments in Penang, Perak and Selangor.

Since March 8 Anwar had also held the PR coalition together by tantalising their leaders with the dream of federal power, at becoming deputy prime minister and federal ministers and to be able to finally defeat Umno and rewrite the rules of the game.

But the failure to seize power is negatively impacting on the opposition coalition and is one reason why the differences are surfacing. There is nothing like "failure" to get the ugly questions to rise to the surface.

Anwar's reluctance up to now to turn the PR into a formal organisation like the BN with a fixed political agenda, rules and regulations build on a "common values" platform of democracy, equality and meritocracy is also partly responsible for the deep ideological division within PR.

Only the DAP remains focused both in Perak and Penang - on its promise to the voters to run a transparent and accountable government minus race and discrimination although without federal power the DAP's ability to sustain the momentum is questionable.

Its capacity on its own to build a new egalitarian society is hugely limited without federal power.

As for the PKR it is still smarting and listless from the Sept 16 fiasco.

But lately Anwar has began stepping into his shoes as opposition leader in parliament and speaking up for the Rakyat - a difficult fit for a man who has always wielded direct power while in government but now has to influence policy by opposition pressure tactics.

Increasingly the focus is on PAS which has returned to its old habits and is openly showing an intolerance that is counter to its post-March 8 image as a tolerant, moderate Islamic party that champions common values in a multi-ethnic party.

The increasingly Malay nationalistic and fundamentalist Islamic postures by PAS are not only worrying its Pakatan Rakyat colleagues but also civil society activists and ordinary people.

Although moderates abound in PAS the party as a whole is shifting to a hard-line position on numerous issues believing the time has arrived for PAS to lead the Malays and the country.

"PAS believes it is destined to lead the Malays and rule the country as a Islamic state that the time has finally arrived to exert itself," said a former PAS ideologue who declined to be named.

"The confidence is based on its strong and expanding grassroots support," he said adding without PAS grassroots support PKR and DAP would not have done so well.

Clearly PAS is caught between satisfying non-Muslim desire for equality and an end to discrimination on one side and defending Islam and Malay ground where "strength" is read as not "conceding" to non-Muslims.

The party is in a quandary unable to resolve the deep ideological battle within itself between moderation and the demand for a theocratic state and at the same time having to speak up for Malay rights in a multi-ethnic society.

It's is for these reasons that in Kedah PAS want 50% of house ownership reserved for bumiputras and in Selangor it spoke up against a Chinese heading PKNS, the state development corporation.

PAS involvement in the mob that broke up a Bar Council inter-faith forum early this year is another example of the same dilemma.

It also announced it would not support a Pakatan Rakyat government that was not majority Malay and in addition said party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Hadi Awang is "best qualified" to be Prime Minister if Pakatan seizes power.

Despite the differences the PR coalition is holding together largely because of a common enemy and a common desire to topple the BN government.

"But their differences are surfacing as their dream of seizing Federal power diminishes," said a University Science Malaysia academic who declined to be identified.

"The public support for PR remains strong but their failures to work together would eventually impact on public perception," the academic said.

"Mostly middle class Malaysians are showing their unhappiness that PR is unable to overcome race politics, end discriminations and champion equality and meritocracy," he said.

The electorate believe they woke up to a new Malaysia on March 8 minus race, religion and discrimination and therefore it comes as a shock that the very same people who had preached "common human" values have fallen back on old habits - By Baradan Kuppusamy