SINGAPORE, May 30 — The opposition Islamic party PAS will be unable to single-handedly take over the government in Malaysia and run it as an Islamic state, a top party official said yesterday.
With only about 75 of the 222 parliamentary seats dominated by Malay voters — seats that PAS has a good chance of winning — it could never single-handedly take over the country, said the head of PAS’ research centre.
Even if PAS did win all these seats, it would not be able to command the two-thirds majority needed to change the Constitution.
“It makes it academic to fear that Islam is going to be imposed by PAS on others. And we don’t want it to be that way anyway,” said Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad at a talk in Singapore yesterday.
He added that PAS still needed to rely on its coalition partners in the three-party opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance to win seats not dominated by Malay-Muslim voters.
Besides, the Kuala Selangor MP said, PAS would find it challenging to deal with the demands of what he called “new politics”, such as greater democratic participation and less centralised rule.
“We are not sure whether our party is quite capable of managing the demands of these new politics,” he said candidly.
Dzulkefly is known to be one of the more liberal leaders in the party and part of what is regarded as a reformist group known as the “Erdogans” — named after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seen by PAS as a liberal Muslim.
His more liberal stance certainly emerged at the 1½-hour talk on PAS at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, as he described PAS’ efforts to reform itself into a party that could reach out more to non-Muslims.
He said PAS had become the third most popular choice for Chinese and Indian voters, surpassing the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition’s Chinese and Indian parties in the general election last year. The first two, he said, were opposition partners Parti Keadilan Rakyat and DAP.
Lamenting that PAS had been “demonised” as a stereotype hardline Islamic party, he said PAS believed in the sanctity of the federal Constitution, national laws and the principles of democracy.
Dzulkefly even ventured that certain controversial rulings based on Islamic law, or syariah, such as those regarding religious conversions, could be relooked, though he did not say who could do it.
He added: “Syariah has never been rigid… even laws in Islam change with time and space.” — Straits Times