Political is a number game & # 39 ;, says the former prime minister.
KUALA LUMPUR: Najib Razak does not apologize for extending an olive branch to PAS, but admits that his reading of political reality led him to take the step.
In an interview in which he was remarkably candid, the former prime minister told FMT that the decision to approach PAS was a political tactic that took into account the increasing conservatism among Malaysians in the country.
Politics is a number game & # 39 ;, he said when he was suggested that his claims to be progressive and moderate could be in contradiction with his perseverance in pursuing one of the most conservative political organizations in the country.
He said that Umno's decision to soften his position on PAS reflected his knowledge of current demographic reality.
"A certain percentage of Malaysians have gone quite conservatively and they continue to support PAS," he said. "Umno, who is a party established in Malaysia, must therefore respect the nature of the political spectrum."
He quickly added that closer ties with PAS would not change Umno's character as a "moderate and progressive" party.
At the end of 2015, Najib shared a podium with his PAS counterpart, Abdul Hadi Awang, who failed to clear his party of so-called progressives. The purification came into the background of the party's consequences with its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat alliance.
This joint appearance represented the first major public relations exercise of the Umno president with supporters of the Islamist party. After this, Umno and PAS leaders met again for a number of well-publicized events, saying that their cooperation was focused on common Muslim issues.
The ties strengthened after Umno openly expressed support for the PAS plan to introduce stiffer penalties for Sharia crimes, the same plan that caused the withdrawal of Pakatan Rakyat.
Although they resisted during the recent general elections, their cooperation peaked during the Sungai Kandis election last week. During the campaign, PAS urged its supporters to vote for Umno & # 39; s Lokman Noor Adam.
Najib insists that the PAS-Umno relationship is unrelated and Umno will not change.
"I keep in mind that every relationship we have with PAS is not a formal relationship, not like in Pakatan," he said. "So we are still free to decide based on what we stand for."
He rejected the often-heard claim that Umno became more conservative among him and said that the opposite was true.
"I led and directed Umno as a centrist, moderate and progressive party with an innovative and daring policy," he said, adding that he did his best to appeal to the non-Malaysians "although the majority of them Umno did not support ".
He said that any friendship with PAS "should not change the character of Umno". "Umno must remain the moderate and progressive party that it is known to be."
Najib disagreed with allegations that it was a change from Malaysian support to Pakatan Harapan that caused BN's defeat in the general elections of 9 May.
"It was not so much a Malay tsunami," he said, "but the fact that the Malays were divided, and that gave a small party control of the government."
He said that there was a need to consolidate Malaysia's political power and showed confidence in the current ability of Umno executives to take on the task.
He said that Umno was too rigid in the past, blocking new talents from entering & # 39;
"If Umno wants to become a force that needs to be taken into account, it must strengthen its talent base, be more open to new talents," he said. "It must develop and nurture new leadership."