As one who has become tired and downright troubled by the marked lack of genuine competition in the country’s political culture, it is refreshing to see that the members of PAS will after all find themselves with some real and significant choice to make between Nasharuddin Mat Isa and Husam Musa - the two contenders for the party’s deputy president position.
While many may be intrigued and fascinated by the implications of a victory by one or the other of these two contends, I think it’s fair to say that both the rank-and-file members of PAS – and those of us with no direct investment in the party – have already come out as winners. Given the emphasis being given to the obvious juxtaposition between Nasharuddin’s apparent ‘Islamic’ credentials relative to Husam’s more ‘secular’ academic background, I’m of the mind that either way, this tussle between the two is symptomatic of a major step in the right direction for the party and the country.
Don’t get me wrong; of course I’m not arguing that it does not matter who wins. I for one have no doubt who I’d prefer to see elected as the party’s deputy. For the record, I’m convinced that through a moderate approach – not unlike the one reflected in the party’s willingness to link-up with its other secular allies – PAS can be a more constructive, relevant, and credible player in shaping the course of the nation. Conversely, PAS would only be shooting itself in the foot if it again abandons the path of moderation and cooperation and drifts into a political abyss.
But that’s a whole different matter, and perhaps something I’ll have more to say on another day. What is especially of interest to me here is the fact that we’re seeing such a genuine difference in outlook and approaches embodied in the aforementioned two contenders. Perhaps there have been times when various PAS candidates have embodied the contrast between a staunchly anti-UMNO approach and one more sympathetic to a strategic alliance with UMNO. The present situation, however, is different: It is about the anti-UMNO wing’s willingness to forge ahead with secular opposition allies – and the other wing’s continued obsession with primitive communal politics.
Whatever the outcome such genuine competition embodying a real contrast in perspectives and strategies is what we need more of. Bit by bit, just maybe our politicians can stop being infantile about entertaining contrasting perspectives in the political arena and nor do we need to be talked down too by absolutely shallow and primary school level rhetoric, which tends to invariably be devoid of substance.