October 14, 2014
The Games Anwar Plays
My friend Netto has shed some light on recent developments in Parti KeADIlan Rakyat (PKR), especially Anwar’s destructive ways. The incumbent Ketua Umum is clearly not interested in bringing all factions together after years of internal feuding. In stead with the prospect of his return to Sungei Buloh getting brighter by the day, he is more concerned about ensuring that he remains dominant in its affairs.
By appointing his loyal supporters (Rafizi, Saifuddin Nasution, Sivarasa and his daughter Nurul Izzah) to key positions in PKR, he believes he can dictate by remote control what PKR can and cannot do. If he ends up in jail, Anwar wants to be able to revive the Free Anwar Campaign and rekindle the spirit of Reformasi which propelled Pakatan Rakyat into prominence in 2008 and in 2013, when the political opposition received some 50 odd percent of the popular vote.
I believe he is sadly mistaken. Times have changed. His credibility as leader of Pakatan Rakyat has been called to question. His poor handling of the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis was actually his political Waterloo. It showed us that he can no longer command the support of PAS and keep the coalition intact. Even Lim Kit Siang doubts that Pakatan Rakyat can hold together for GE-14.
The Azmin Ali factor in PKR cannot be discounted. The new Menteri Besar of Selangor is a very astute politician who knows Anwar’s strengths and weaknesses well, but he has yet to show us what he can do to frustrate Anwar’s moves to control the party. At this point in time, Azmin is busy with the Budget 2015 for Selangor and rebuilding relations with PAS and DAP.
Obviously, Azmin has to consolidate his position in Selangor with a clear agenda for the benefit of Selangorians in terms of good governance and socio-conomic development. So far, he has been able to garner competent PKR advisers and strategists, some of whom are already working with him as members of his State Ex-Co. He also has the resources at his disposal and the political stamina to wage a successful campaign against forces within his party who are bent on unseating him.
The fact that Azmin has maintained his silence while Anwar reorganises PKR is a sign that he is neither helpless nor hopeless. I believe that he can count on PAS and DAP to back him when it came to a crunch. This is because he did not antagonize them during the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis where he showed himself be very loyal to his party and Pakatan Rakyat.
As a realist and a seasoned political infighter, Azmin is well aware that his strength in the final analysis is heavily dependent on his ability to strengthen his party and bring the contending factions together.Only a strong, united and credible PKR can gain the respect of its coalition partners and voters.
At some point, he must emerge from the shadow of Anwar Ibrahim, his former political mentor who, like Brutus, is now stabbing him in the back with his latest political plays.–Din Merican
Rise of a new “Ketua Umum” in PKR
by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: PKR declined the opportunity to bridge the gulf between its factions ahead of a possible jailing of party supremo Anwar Ibrahim, whose Sodomy II appeal is set for hearing at the apex court on October 28.
Instead of choosing to unite the party after an embarrassingly disheveled and long drawn-out internal election process, PKR on Sunday opted to deepen the cleavages within by appointing partisan leaders to key positions. This myopia would be the more debilitating should Anwar lose his appeal in the Federal Court against his conviction for sodomy at the Court of Appeal last March.
PKR has to be a unified and solidified force in the event that Anwar winds up in jail, the better it can parlay his incarceration into support for the party and the cause of comprehensive political reform of the country. By appointing partisans rather than neutrals to key posts, the party chose navel gazing rather than scanning the horizon as preparation for challenges it must face en route to the next general election.
The myopia behind this choice is in stark contrast to the inclusive nature of the decisions made by the candidate it declined to propose but was ultimately appointed to the post of Selangor Menteri Besar.
Menteri Besar Azmin Ali , the party’s No 2 by an emphatic margin in the internal polls in which much was done to prevent his victory, had moved in the initial weeks of his appointment as MB to bring together not only contending forces within PKR but also within the Pakatan Rakyat coalition that dominates the state legislature.
That collaborative spirit is unrequited within PKR, judging from who the party chose to appoint to key positions after meetings of its political bureau and its central leadership council two days ago.
In naming Rafizi Ramli to the Secretary-General’s post, PKR has preferred a lighting rod to a neutral in a position that is possibly the most sensitive in an overall scheme, if that be the intention, to unite the party after a prolonged bout of internecine feuding that preceded the party polls, wore it down as it proceeded apace and dogged the simultaneous struggle to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor MB.
After an experience that tumultuous, one would think the last person to appoint, after the dust has begun to settle, to the position of party secretary-general would be Rafizi, who had been the stormiest petrel in the entire boondoggle.
The former Deputy Chief Minister of Penang and current MP for Nibong Tebal, Mansor Othman (right), was widely touted as the likeliest to replace the incumbent Sec-Gen Saifuddin Nasution, an out-and-out Anwar flunkey. Colourless and self-effacing, Mansor is the sort of operative more suited to the tasks of the backroom rather than the frontal positions that his past as Deputy Chief Minister and Penang PKR chief had thrust upon him. Mansor is also known to enjoy good ties to all the factions in the party.
This is unlike Rafizi who has become a polarising figure in the party. He was previously not so, or chose not to be divisive until shortly after last year’s general election.
This was a smart choice because Rafizi, having had no past in UMNO from which several of the key PKR players had emerged and are thereby tainted, found it wise to stay above the partisan fray within the party, keeping his sights on the financial and economic issues that plague the country, a field of concern at which he is adept.
But after observing the seeming indifference of Azmin at a post-mortem of PKR’s performance in the 2013 general election held in Penang in August last year, Rafizi shed his customary cool and plunged into the partisan fray.
A few months later, when suspicion within the party mounted over Khalid Ibrahim’s deals with the federal government over ownership and management of Selangor’s water assets and related questions over new tolled highways and seized Bibles, Rafizi went full throttle in his assumed role as saviour of the party.
He saw Khalid and Azmin as leaders to be got rid off and proceeded to hurl himself into the task. A more nuanced survey of the situation – the personalities involved and their track records – would have yielded the view that Khalid was the more insidious threat to PKR’s vision and ideals.
Instead Rafizi opted to tar both with the same brush and strategised in the party polls to get Saifuddin elected in a three-cornered fight – the other contestants were incumbent Azmin and Khalid – for the Deputy President’s post. This caused the election exercise to degenerate into block voting, a recipe for mediocre selection.
Rafizi nearly became a casualty of the process; in the final rounds of the staggered vote, he homed in on one of the four elected vice-presidential slots. Had he stood alone, untethered to any camp, he may have nailed one of the four veep positions with ease and another of the ‘stand alone’ candidates, N Surendran, may have come thorough had there been no block voting.
In the event, Azmin retained his No 2 post with ease, to the distress of his opponents in the party whose devotion to democratic ideals is limited by whether it conforms with their preferences.
Besides the post of Secretary-General, PKR has opted to appoint individuals opposed to Azmin to other critical positions: the new election directors are Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Nurul Izzah Anwar, who owes her lofty position in the party hierarchy to nothing more substantive than the aura she inherits from his father.
In the selection of co-directors of a position that will impact the selection of candidates for the next general election, the party did not see fit to appoint at least one person from among the Azmin faction. Latheefa Koya , the lawyer who virtually built up the party’s legal and human rights bureau and who topped the vote for the central leadership council, has been replaced by R Sivarasa.
Latheefa has had her run-ins with Rafizi who in the event that Anwar winds up in Sungai Buloh will be the new de facto ‘Ketua Umum’ of the party.
A political party saddled with improvisatory titles will find ways to retool them for its rising parvenus. As for its stauncher adherents, like the new MB of Selangor, they will have to rely on the cunning of history, or if you may, the cunning of reason to see them through, as it has in Selangor where the Palace was constitutionally wrong but politically right in appointing Azmin as the MB.
PKR’s ‘Ketua Umum’, Anwar Ibrahim, is fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi to the effect that what is morally right cannot be politically wrong and what is politically right must also be morally right. The problem is he’s rather better at preaching than he is at practice. The pity of it is that that’s being found out about him just when he is at the receiving end of a load of ghastly practices.