By unveiling a woman candidate for the Tenang by-election, PAS is signalling its seriousness about rebranding itself.
KUALA LUMPUR: PAS may have more in mind than just a possible upset at the Tenang by-election when it announced a female candidate, political analysts say.
Gender equality isn’t exactly the Islamist party’s forte. When president Abdul Hadi Awang named Muslimah (women wing) executive committee member Normala Samsudin as its candidate last night, it was clear that PAS had a wider, national target.
Professor Abdul Aziz Bari, a political analyst from the International Islamic University, was of the view that PAS is pragmatic enough to know that the odds are against the party in Tenang, a known Barisan Nasional (BN) fortress. He added that it is unlikely that PAS can pull off a stunner despite its confidence of causing an upset.
The battle would be won if PAS could slash the 2,492 majority garnered in the 2008 general election by the late Sulaiman Taha of Umno, whose death a month back triggered the by-election. But the most important thing is, fielding a female candidate indicates that PAS is serious about rebranding itself as a progressive Islamic party as it prepares for the next general election which is widely speculated to be held year-end.
“The selection of a woman as the PAS candidate underscores the serious attention given by PAS to local and national sentiments at the moment,” Abdul Aziz told FMT. Gender equality is not PAS’ forteWhile the same can be said of other Pakatan Rakyat component parties, the low number of women representation in PAS has drawn flak from a growingly sophisticated electorate who attributes the gender lopsidedness to its Islamic credentials.
PAS may have a few women parliamentarians though the numbers are still very low compared to PKR or the DAP, but at state level, the nationalist-turned-Islamist party’s female state representatives averaged at two per state. PKR and DAP, on the other hand, average at four to five women representation per state.
Dr Ong Kian Ming, a prominent political analyst with UCSI University, said that picking Normala signalled PAS’ intention to dispel the negative perception attached to it. “The candidate will not make much difference considering that Tenang is a BN stronghold, but it would mean much in terms of positioning PAS at the state and national level. This also shows the confidence they have in their image and party,” he told FMT.
All eyes on non-Malay votes.
Tenang, which falls under the Labis parliamentary constituency, has some 14,700-odd voters comprising 49% Malays, 38% Chinese, 12% Indians and 0.9% others. Labis is a known bastion of MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek. It is now helmed by his son Chua Tee Yong. BN leaders, particularly Umno’s, are confident of retaining Tenang despite having its majority slashed to half. In the 2004 general election, it gained a 5,517 majority. Four years later, amid the “political tsunami”, it was slashed to almost half.
Abdul Aziz said the huge numbers of non-Malay voters would give PAS what it needs to achieve its target. Non-Malay votes were the major factor that gave Pakatan’s its strength in the historic 2008 election. In all 12 by-elections since then, the trend continued until Galas which saw the Chinese votes returning to BN. However, analysts believe this trend was unique to the constituency and are sceptical that it would be replicated at the national level.
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