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The conservative faction in PAS has triumphed in the deputy president race with incumbent Nasharudin Mat Isa keeping his post. Nasharudin was largely seen as the key figure behind attempt to unite the party with Umno due to his involvement in the clandestine Malay unity talk last year.
Nasharudin’s 480 to 281-vote win over Datuk Husam Musa will be seen as an affirmation that PAS should continue exploring cooperation on Malay unity.
Husam Musa called Nasharudin as being “too liberal with Umno”, adding that unseating the two-term deputy president would make the party’s direction clearer.
Nasharudin, appearing to realise the disquiet in the ranks over the Umno talks, made a last minute denial on Tuesday night when opening the PAS Youth muktamar, but Husam accused him of hiding the truth. The Bachok MP also received the backing of the conservative religious scholars in the party.
Husam represents the pro-Pakatan faction in the party which favours strengthening the coalition led by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and are completely against a unity government with Umno. The Kelantan executive councillor had also received the tacit support of party spiritual leader and Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who has vowed not to cooperate with Umno.
In an immediate reaction after the results announcement, Husam said he is determined to stop any attempt to bring the party closer to Umno.
“I have said before that I contested to make my view known — to replace Umno,” he told reporters. “But I am happy my message is accepted at the vice-president and central committee contest. The vice-presidents and the majority of the central working committee members can help realise my vision,” said Husam.
PAS is quickly moving to be a multi-racial party when delegates at the 55th muktamar today endorsed plans to convert the club of 20,000 non-Muslims supporters into a full-fledged wing or dewan.
The Islamist party will now have to call for an extraordinary general assembly to make the necessary amendments to a constitution that limits membership to Muslims. The proposal, which was presented as a working paper to the party leadership in November last year, has experienced a huge wave of momentum within the party leading up to this weekend’s muktamar.
It was endorsed by spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat at the club’s national convention last weekend, who said the club should have been absorbed into the party a long time ago in view of the undivided support of non-Muslim members.
None of those debating the policy speech rejected the proposal but about half of them backed it unreservedly.
Ahmad Yahya said Kedah PAS fully mandated the move and added that PAS should fulfil the hope that non-Muslims had placed in the party as they no longer believe that Barisan Nasional can protect their interests.
“We appreciate their support and the brilliant by-election results show that it is getting stronger,” he said of the club.
The proposal is now being studied by a technical committee that was only set up in April but with the weight of support behind it now, party officials say converting the club into a full-fledged wing will take less than a year.
But with a growing level of acceptance from non-Muslims, especially since Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin’s defiant stand after being usurped as Perak mentri besar in February, PAS appears to have seen the merits of fast-forwarding the process of empowering the club.
It will be another milestone for the party of clerics that broke away from Umno in 1951 but is now recognised as having the most efficient machinery and structure within Pakatan Rakyat.