The leaders will decide between Batu Burok assemblyman Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi and state deputy commissioner Datuk Wan Mutalib Embong.
"Wan Mutalib is the president's choice but Dr Syed Azman is the people's choice," a party source told The Malaysian Insider.
Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had said he will disclose the candidate on New Year's Day.
The party had commissioned two independent surveys that showed Dr Syed Azman is the party’s best hope to capture the seat from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in the Jan 17 by-election.
The Islamist party had called for the surveys in its search for the most popular candidate after dismal outings for the seat in the past two general elections.
In both surveys, the Batu Burok state assemblyman came out tops over Pas commissioner Datuk Mustafa Ali and Wan Mutalib to represent the party for nomination day on Jan 6.
The Pas candidate will face, among others, Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, who leads the Kuala Terengganu Umno division, for a mandate from the 80,229 voters there.
The by-election was called after its MP Datuk Razali Ismail died in late November. The deputy education minister was a two-term MP who won by a slim 628-vote majority against Pas’s Mohamed Sabu and grandmother Maimun Yusof.
Both Umno and Pas have had to grapple with various options for the seat which is crucial to both their fortunes after the March 8 general election which saw BN losing its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority and four more states to the opposition.
Pas won 23 parliamentary seats but came behind its Pakatan Rakyat allies and is seen as a junior partner in the electoral pact. Party spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who is also Kelantan Menteri Besar, had endorsed Mohamed Sabu to contest again but the Penang leader is seen as an outsider in the constituency which both Umno and its rivals have traded since the 1980s.
Razali was also the first MP in recent times to keep the seat again. For BN, it must win the by-election to prove it has regained its strength after also losing the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who took back his political stronghold from his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
The by-election is also crucial to BN election director Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, the Umno president-elect who is slated to succeed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi next March.
Incidentally, Wan Ahmad Farid was political secretary to Abdullah and his candidacy is seen as proof of Abdullah's continued influence in Umno. BN is set to exploit Pas’s recent reaffirmation that it will implement Islamic criminal hudud laws if Pakatan Rakyat comes to power.
Pas vice-president Datuk Husam Musa, who made the statement in a debate with Umno Youth chief hopeful Khairy Jamaluddin two weeks ago, has hastily clarified his statements after Pakatan Rakyat ally DAP objected to it. Both parties fell out over the same issue after the 1999 general election where the opposition gained more seats due to Anwar’s sacking as deputy prime minister and finance minister by then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.