PR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced this evening that the pact had unanimously agreed that a PAS candidate should stand for the country’s 15th by-election.
“Not true, not true,” several PR leaders responded simultaneously this evening, when asked in a press conference at DAP’s headquarters here if the rumours of PAS’s plans to stand down were true.
PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali had also turned around to ask reporters for the name of the source who had made the claim.
“Where did you get that information? Was there any name mentioned? No? So, no, it is not true,” he said.
Anwar added that PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang would seek the help of the entire PR machinery to assist in preparations for the by-election.
When asked if the leadership had decided on the name of the candidate, Hadi, who was also at the press conference, told reporters that the decision would likely be made soon during the PAS leadership meeting on February 13.
“We will shortlist the names later,” he said.
He noted that based on convention, the candidate would likely be a local and added that the party’s national leadership would consult its Malacca leaders before deciding on the name.
The Malaysian Insider reported today that the Merlimau by-election would likely see incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN) winning the seat uncontested if PAS decides to stay away from the poll.
It has also been reported that PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin was interested to contest in the polls, indicating a possible tussle between the two PR parties for the seat.
A source from the PAS central committee had claimed that a significant number of senior leaders in the Islamist party have been lobbying the top leadership not to field a candidate in the BN stronghold.
“We have to choose our battles. We can’t just contest when a vacancy arises. It is very costly and this is the time for us to focus on the general election,” said a member of the PAS political bureau who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Out of the 14 by-elections held since 2008, PAS has contested seven and won four.
The last time PAS refused to contest in a by-election was in January 2007, when Pahang’s Batu Talam seat fell vacant. The party then cited electoral irregularities for boycotting the by-election.
“Except for some who have been eager to set up an operations centre in Merlimau, many of us in the national leadership are not in favour of contesting,” said the source.
The PAS central committee member said the only obstacle to the plan is the Malacca state leadership as well as leaders of the party’s Jasin division.
It is understood that PAS vice-president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who has been appointed the Merlimau by-election director, is likely to back the proposal to stand down as he has previously spoken out against by-elections.
The influential ulama had said during the Hulu Selangor campaign last year that by-elections cause government resources to be redistributed, affecting development plans.
Tuan Ibrahim had also accused all political parties of violating election laws by over-spending during campaigning periods.
Meanwhile, another PAS insider said the party would first have to decide not to contest before convincing its PR partners to agree.
“The problem is PKR and the Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin are interested. There will be more damage internally if we let PKR contest,” he said, citing the Election 2008 seat negotiation agreement when Shamsul abandoned the Jasin parliamentary seat after he was given clearance by the Terengganu PAS leadership to contest in Dungun.
The Jasin parliamentary constituency is a stronghold of BN, where it won all the five state seats including Merlimau in Election 2008.
PKR through Shamsul had demanded for the Jasin seat, which had been traditionally contested by PAS prior to Election 2008.
The Merlimau state seat fell vacant after BN’s Datuk Mohamad Hidhir Abu Hasan, 54, died on January 20.
In the 1999 general election, BN won with a majority of 2,252 votes. This rose in 2004 to 5,087 votes, before dipping in 2008 to 2,154 votes.
Mohamad Hidhir, who was also a state executive councillor, defeated PAS’s Jasme Tompang in the March 2008 general election.