Asia

Malaysian opposition parties UMNO and PAS formalise pact

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's two oldest political parties – UMNO and PAS – signed a charter of formal cooperation on Saturday (Sep 14), presenting arguably the largest political platform for the majority Malay-Muslims.

The political cooperation charter, known as National Consensus Charter, was signed by both party presidents – Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for UMNO and Abdul Hadi Awang for PAS. It marks the start of political collaboration between the two largest Malay/Muslim-based parties in the country.

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United Malays National Organization (UMNO) President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) President Hadi Awang sign a political cooperation charter during Ummah Unity Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 14, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

The event was attended by thousands of supporters at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

The union between PAS and former ruling party UMNO, which was ousted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's coalition in a general election last year, promises that political power will return to the ethnic Malay-Muslims should they win in the next polls due by 2023.

"The confusion within the government now is because of the absence of brave and worthy Malay leaders," Zahid said at the signing of the charter.

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Members of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) gather during the Ummah Unity Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 14, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

Prime Minister Mahathir's administration has had to delay or withdraw many of its planned reforms after a backlash from the opposition and conservative groups representing ethnic Malays.

Malaysia had to withdraw plans to ratify a UN convention against racial discrimination, and to accede to the Rome Statute, which would have seen it joining the International Criminal Court.

READ: Malaysian government will not ratify international convention against racial discrimination

Mahathir has also had to repeatedly state that the government would not extradite Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, despite an ongoing police investigation for alleged stoking of racial sentiments.

"We have seen several government policies that have made us Muslims feel threatened … the government now is just pressing down on the Malays and Islam," university student Mohamad Ilman Hakim said at the charter signing event.

Members of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) gather during the Ummah Unity Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 14, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

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