10 June 2015
The latest PAS elections have seen the decisive reassertion of the central leadership of the ulama class. How will this impact on the future of political Islam and opposition politics in Malaysia?
Purist Ulama or religious scholars won near-total control of Malaysia’s Islamist party PAS in just-concluded elections, backed by a younger generation of clerics who displayed a surprising knack for this-worldly party politics. Their sweeping victory was widely expected, yet came as a shock to many, leading some local analysts to aptly describe this an “ulama tsunami”. It culminated a long struggle for control between the more conservative ulama and the pragmatic professionals that has been going on for years and peaked at the 61st Muktamar or general assembly on 4-6 June 2015.
The ulama captured all key leadership positions, returning Hadi Awang as president by a landslide and installing one of their own – Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man – as the new deputy leader. From their base in the Ulama Council, the ulama group outvoted all the professionals and strengthened their grip by winning almost all seats in the main executive committee, while expanding their dominance to the Pemuda (Youth) and Wanita (Women’s) wings. It was a strong “comeback” of sorts for the ulama who have always claimed the mantle of leadership that was shared in a tenuous symbiotic relationship with the professionals who flocked to PAS in numbers since 1998 with the ouster of Anwar Ibrahim from UMNO. That relationship is now as good as broken.
… Yang Razali Kassim is Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 11/06/2015