The Leaderboard: Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is he?

Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (commonly known as Nik Aziz) is a prominent Malaysian politician and Islamic religious leader. He was the spiritual leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), one of the three parties that make up Malaysia’s opposition coalition. He held a revered position in the party after serving 23 years as chief minister of the northern state of Kelantan, PAS’s political heartland.

Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat. Source: Syed Azidi AlBukhard's flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat. Source: Syed Azidi AlBukhard’s flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Why is he is in the news?

Nik Aziz passed away on February 12 after a battle with prostate cancer dating back a few years.

What does this mean?

Nik Aziz’s passing is the latest blow to Malaysia’s opposition coalition, which is already reeling from the jailing of its veteran leader Anwar Ibrahim. Nik Aziz and Anwar were central to keeping the ideologically different and sometimes bickering parties together. Their absence will create a leadership vacuum within the coalition, which announced shortly after Nik Aziz’s death that it will postpone its leadership council meeting to select a new leader to replace Anwar.

A key question is whether the next generation of opposition politicians will be able to continue in the footsteps of Anwar and Nik Aziz. His death also raises questions about PAS’s future in the opposition, as some in its conservative wing do not share Niz Aziz’s strong support for the coalition and are more sympathetic toward the policies of the ruling United Malaysia Nasional Organization led by Prime Minister Najib Razak. If these hardliners win key leadership positions in PAS, it may very well lead to PAS’s departure from and the breakup of the opposition coalition.


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