KUALA LUMPUR – The decision by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) to contest against ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) at the upcoming election will further split the Malay majority vote, increasing the likelihood of a hung Parliament result.

The Islamist party that had previously teamed up with the other two major parties that represent the Malay Muslim majority BNs lynchpin party Umno and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia had tried to unite them for the general election that is expected to be held in November.

But the enmity between Umno and Bersatu forced PAS to pick a side. It has decided to go with Bersatu, which leads the Perikatan Nasional coalition.

The contest is more balanced now (or uncertain), because if it was PAS and Umno working together, their joint vote bank would practically deliver nearly all constituencies where Malays form the majority, BowerGroupAsia director Adib Zalkapli told The Straits Times.

Nearly 60 per cent of Parliaments 222 seats have Malay Muslims as their majority demographic.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang claimed last Friday that Umnos lack of seriousness in dealing with corruption had caused murkiness, leaving his party with no choice but to postpone its relations with the ruling party.

Its not that we want to be enemies. Because of the murkiness, we put it on hold. It would be easier with Umno, we can grasp victory swiftly. But we are not careless. Its like durians, if you pluck too soon, it wont be ripe and you will have a bloated stomach, he said.

With analysts predicting a strong chance of the election returning a hung Parliament, PAS could nevertheless still rekindle ties with BN.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob called on BN to cease attacking PAS as who knows, one day we will sit together again.

For now, experts project PAS will win about 20 parliamentary seats. This number will not place it in a position to dictate which coalition will form the government, analysts say. But it could still bolster a bloc that needs to reach the parliamentary majority of 112 seats.

The big blocs will still be Sabah and Sarawak, they are the kingmakers, Professor James Chin of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, Australia, told The Straits Times. He was referring to the countrys Borneo states, where established local parties are expected to take the bulk of the 57 seats on offer there.

Given the current political situation, Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said PAS has less potential to become a kingmaker.

BN itself only considers PAS as extra rice if they win the general election, the Universiti Malaya Associate Professor of Malay Studies told ST.

Despite being Umnos best choice, Johor chief Hasni Mohammad said last Saturday that PAS will remain only as nasi tambah (extra rice), meaning that BN will resume negotiations with the party only if it has not already achieved a parliamentary majority with other partners.

As a pragmatic party, PAS would be willing to work with BN if the latter fails to get a simple majority in Parliament after the election, said Mr Adib. More On This Topic Malaysia GE2022: Will voter fatigue affect prospects at the ballot box? Mahathir willing to be Malaysian PM for third time if theres a request PAS has shown that it can work with both Umno and Bersatu. If BN gets a simple majority in Parliament with support from Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and GPS, then BN doesnt need PAS, he added, referring to GRS, which currently governs Sabah in a coalition with BN, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

The Islamist party could also relook its ties with Bersatu in state governments, depending on the outcome in the three Umno-controlled states Perlis, Pahang and Perak that will be holding state elections at the same time as the federal election.

It is also possible that PAS will reconsider being tied to Bersatu to form a government, or a state government in Perak, Perlis and Pahang, if the latter does not contribute a significant number of seats, as Bersatu is not as strong as Umno, Dr Awang said. More On This Topic Malaysias elections – a two-level chess game? Malaysia GE microsite: Get the latest