Malaysia's Islamist head: non-Muslims ultimately can join party

Malaysia's Islamist party on Friday positioned itself as the top contender to lead the opposition.

Malaysia's Islamist head: non-Muslims ultimately can join party

Malaysia's Islamist party on Friday positioned itself as the top contender to lead the opposition.

Abdul Hadi Awang, president of the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), said non-Muslims could ultimately be allowed to join the party.
Ethnic minorities make up 45 percent of this Southeast Asian country's 27 million population.

The key moment of the annual meeting will be a battle for top party posts.

"PAS is ready to offer itself to lead the change and bear the trust of national leadership in Malaysia's heterogeneous society after the 13th general election, God-willing," Abdul Hadi told dressed at the PAS annual congress.

PAS is a member of a three-party opposition alliance led by Anwar Ibrahim that hopes to take power from the National Front coalition in elections due by 2013.
Although PAS, set up in 1951, is Malaysia's second largest political party in terms of mass membership after the main government party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), it is the smallest of the three opposition parties in parliament, holding 24 of the alliance's 83 seats.

"To a certain extent, this was really PAS projecting itself as a national party," said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

"It sees itself as an umbrella for non-Malays to come in and for Sabah and Sarawak to come in," she said, referring to two states on Borneo island currently with the government coalition.

Abdul Hadi later toned down his stance when asked by reporters about his plan for PAS to become the opposition's lead body, saying the alliance practised collective leadership.

"The political scenario can change ... What's important is principle and concept of cooperation, not defending any individual," he said.

Anwar is parliamentary opposition leader.

"Like every component party in the Alliance, PAS would want to be the strongest, and this is a message to the membership that PAS has an objective to be the strongest party in Malaysia," said Yang Razali Kassim, a political analyst with the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Haziran 2009, 11:41
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