April 21, 2010
ANALYSIS By JOCELINE TAN : Nightmares for a dream candidate
Pakatan Rakyat thought they had a dream candidate in Datuk Zaid Ibrahim but he has been put on the defensive over his lifestyle and the positions he has taken on sensitive issues concerning Islam and Muslims.
DATUK Zaid Ibrahim started out as a dream candidate for Pakatan Rakyat. But the Pakatan bid to make him the next MP of Hulu Selangor is fast turning into a political nightmare.
Zaid seems to be loaded with more baggage than any of his friends in Pakatan had imagined possible. His past has finally caught up with him and it could not have happened at a worse time in his political career.
His liberal lifestyle and highly publicised stand on national issues, especially those touching on Islam and Muslims, are now being dug out by his opponents to haunt him. He had to admit on the second day of the campaign that “I am no angel”, meaning that he is not perfect but had weaknesses like all human beings. To his credit, he has not lost his temper or lashed out at his accusations. Instead, said reporters, he seems to be taking it calmly and like a gentleman.
But a winning campaign should not be run on the defensive and that is where Zaid has been stuck from the word go. He started off denying he was a millionaire with homes overseas, then came the drinking issue and that was followed by a replay of his legal suit against the implementation of hudud laws by the PAS governments in Kelantan and Terengganu in 2002.
His stand on the Lina Joy apostasy case, that it is a constitutional rather than an Islamic issue, is also being brought up again.
The PKR dilemma is a mirror situation of that faced by UMNO in the Permatang Pasir by-election last year. The UMNO candidate was bogged down by issues concerning his conduct as a lawyer and also over an alleged second wife. UMNO had to literally run the race with a sprained ankle.
The allegations have dented Zaid’s standing as a candidate. His drinking past, it is said, is forgivable but his stand over hudud laws and apostasy is a bit more complicated.
Zaid’s history was not exactly unknown to his allies in Pakatan, namely DAP leaders and the liberal camp surrounding Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.
His advocates were either over-confident or had under-estimated their opponents in pushing for him. Zaid is the sort of Malay that this group feels comfortable with and whom they would like to see as a fall-back leader should Anwar have to return to prison.
There is even a conspiracy theory going around now saying that Zaid, flaws and all, was put up as a candidate to take the bullets on Anwar’s behalf. The theory goes that the other contender, Dr Halili Rahmat, was so uncontroversial that if he was picked, Anwar would be the one taking the hits.
The theory is full of holes. Every party goes into an election to win, and on paper, Zaid looked like a presentable candidate with the right credentials — ex-minister, successful lawyer, thinking politician, outspoken and articulate.
But his supporters failed to give sufficient weightage to his track record on sensitive Islamic issues. His stands on these issues go down well with non-Muslims as well as liberal Malays.
The Malay ground in Hulu Selangor is generally conservative. The line between halal and haram is clearly etched in their minds. However, the campaign questioning his credentials as a Muslim will not have any bearing on the non-Malay voters. The Chinese “yam seng” culture is a feature of life, likewise among the Indians.
Some have likened the character assassination on Zaid as a series of cluster bombs.
The latest bomb was not about him but connected to him. Dr Halili Rahmat stunned everyone by resigning from the party. Dr Halili is an established neurosurgeon and no one can accuse him of having done it for money. He has been loyal to Anwar since 1998. He probably feels hurt that loyalist like him have to make way for a parachute candidate like Zaid.
The political chatter over Zaid’s dilemma has spread over to Kelantan where Zaid, who was Kota Baru MP, is well-known. One of his UMNO friends from Kelantan recalled: “He was quite open about it, he is not a hypocrite. We were having steak and when I ordered pineapple juice, he told me steak does not go with pineapple juice, it goes with red wine.”
His then opponents from PAS had used the same allegations against him in the 2004 general election but they were not as creative as UMNO now and Zaid won narrowly by 43 votes. But PAS and he are now on the same side, and PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang has defended his alcohol consumption, saying Zaid has changed since returning from Mecca. Hadi also brushed off Zaid’s anti-hudud action as a thing of the past.
Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat is due back from Mecca tomorrow and is scheduled at a big ceramah on Friday night during which he is expected to further exonerate Zaid. Pakatan is racing to do damage control for Zaid.
www. thestar.com.my (April 20, 2010)