|Incumbent Nasharudin Mat Isa has fallen out of favour and is unlikely to defend his post, say observers.|
KOTA BARU : All eyes will be on PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa at the PAS muktamar (annual general assembly) in Kuala Lumpur from June 3 to 5.
The party will be having its biennial party elections and the delegates will want to know what Nasharudin has decided – to defend his post or let president Abdul Hadi Awang nominate his man for the deputy president’s post.
Nasharuddin is no stranger to the intrigues of the Islamic party. The Negri Sembilan-born academican will once again be the cucumber between two durians.
On one side is the clerics (ulamas) who are core supporters of president Hadi and, on the other side, is the professionals who are said to be linked to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
In 2008, the professionals were nicknamed by political observers as “erdagon” since they are believed to be influenced by the reformed-minded and outspoken Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Prior to the 2008 general election where PAS ruled over only Kelantan, Nasharudin was the poster boy of the professionals and they helped him defeat the late ulama Hassan Shukri who is from Selangor, for the deputy president’s post.
However, after 2008, he is said to have forged close links with Hadi, and he was challenged for the deputy president’s post.
In the 2009 election, Nasharudin defended his post in a three-cornered fight involving PAS spiritual adviser Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s blue-eyed boy Husam Musa and PAS strongman Mohammad Sabu.
Nasharudin won but since then the battle lines have been drawn for the Bachok MP, as he had to openly take on the disgruntled Kelantan PAS progressive group and other Erdagon-linked individuals.
He was accused of being an Umno ally and a proponent of Malay unity concept, which envisions Umno and PAS working together, much to the disgust of Hadi, a hardline cleric.
Most of the party’s 179 divisions would be meeting this weekend and the nominations would indicate whether PAS would continue to embrace their “Islamic version” of democracy.
Insiders said democracy in PAS is about consensus and mediation, as the party learnt a hard lesson because of the infighting in the 1980s, which resulted in them losing their bastion of Kelantan.
Nasharudin is seen as expendable by both the clerics and professionals as he does not have a core group of loyalists.
Those following the developments in the party now say that the two top leaders in PAS are on a collision course. Hadi has executive power whereas Nik Aziz, who, by virtue of being elected murshidul am (spiritual adviser), is accorded a higher status among the party’s faithful.
Nik Aziz heads the influential 15-member syura ulama council (the consultative council of Islamic scholars) of which Hadi is a member.
However, at the age of 80 and in poor health, it is only a matter of time before Nik Aziz makes way, with some predicting this will happen after the next general election.
The syura council is likely to play a leading role in ensusing orderly contests and a succession plan for Nik Aziz.
Already names such as vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Mat, Kedah Mentri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak, former Perak Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, PAS rising star Mujahid Yusof Rawa and Sabu, are being bandied about as leaders to replace Nasharudin.
It is believed that to avoid a dishonourable exit, the party would probably reward Nasharudin with a senior post if he decides not to contest.
Azizan remains the dark horse as many in the party feel that as Kedah Menteri Besar, he deserves a top post in PAS while Husam’s name has cropped again because of his role in helping Kelantan PAS defeat Umno in the last general election.
Husam recently declared that he is only interested in a central committee post. His Kubang Kerian division recently made heads turn when it nominated Sabu for the post of deputy president.
Both Nasharudin and Husam have their political destiny interlocked as both are perceived to be someone’s favourite political son and both rose through the ranks fast, making “enemies” along the way.
Watching all this will be seasoned ulama such as Terengganu-based Abu Bakar Chik, Selangor PAS commissioner Hassan Ali, renowned healer Harun Din, PAS Youth head Nasharuddin Hassan Tantawi and secretary-general Mustafa Ali.
PAS and its leaders will want to do their level best to avoid infighting and that all candidates be given a fair chance.
The party has lost a few by-elections last year and in Sarawak, it was wiped out in the recent state election.
In Kelantan, voters signalled their unhappiness with the internal squabbles when the party won a wafer-thin majority in the Manek Urai state by-election and in the Galas polls, it lost the state seat.