June 25, 2016
Time to replace Wan Azizah as Opposition Leader
by Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman
Progress can only come when we put aside our ideological biases and acknowledge the truth despite its inconvenience. The opposition is fractured, weak, disorganised and perceptually unfit to take on UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN). The results of the two by-elections prove this.
In Sungai Besar, UMNO-BN won with a 9,191-vote majority. In Kuala Kangsar, Barisan Nasional (BN) won with a majority of 6,969 votes. The majority BN obtained increased by almost tenfold. This despite the scandal-ridden Prime Minister leading the government. Even Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s showing couldn’t close the obvious cracks in the opposition movement.
The prospect of a snap election is real. We see UMNO veterans like Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin and Musa Hitam urging this. The Malaysian Prime Minister himself released a statement stating that he will examine this option thoroughly. While the 14th general election is knocking on our doors, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is incapable of leading the coalition to Putrajaya.
This was evident when she was first thrust into the limelight as the Leader of Opposition in 2015, inheriting the spot from her husband, Anwar Ibrahim. She was immediately tasked to be the uniting force between the splintering opposition parties, namely DAP and PAS.
When Anwar was the Leader of the Opposition, he successfully united the opposition parties despite almost insurmountable obstacles placed in his way. No one would imagine that PAS and DAP could work side-by-side during GE-13, yet Dato’Seri Anwar made that possible. Despite numerous ‘hudud enticements’ thrown at PAS, Anwar was still able to glue the opposition parties together.
“Wan Azizah couldn’t fill the shoes of her husband”–Syed Saddiq.
This is in stark contrast to Wan Azizah whose allegedly weak leadership formented the disunity among the opposition parties. During the ‘Kajang Move’, PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang came out in the open and said that PAS opposed Azizah as Menteri Besar simply because she is a weak leader.
One of the primary reasons why PAS left was because of the prospect of DAP’s dominance of Malaysia. Anwar was able to prove to PAS that as a Malay-Muslim who once led the successful Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), he was capable of offsetting possible power imbalances in the opposition pact.
Unfortunately, Wan Azizah couldn’t fill the shoes of her husband. I do acknowledge that it’s not purely her fault, however, as the Leader of Opposition and quite possibly the future Prime Minister of Malaysia, she should be held to higher standard. A strong replacement was needed, but the rakyat didn’t get one.
YB Wan Azizah also doesn’t inject the much-needed ‘wow’ factor which Anwar commands. Just observe any of her political speeches and you’ll know what I mean. The fact that she rarely gives any political speeches is indicative of this.
An Opposition Leader must inspire to lead
She didn’t make much of an appearance during the BERSIH rallies and the two by-elections. You’ll see her doing walkabouts, but that’s as far as it gets. She won’t speak at big rallies and even if she does, she lacks the charisma which other prominent politicians command. An opposition leader must inspire to lead. We see Azmin Ali, Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah Anwar injecting the much-needed ‘wow’ factor, but seldom do we see Azizah doing the same.
Political science lecturers Dr Arnold Puyok from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Prof. Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia gave scathing reviews of Dr Wan Azizah. Puyok pointed out that Dr Wan Azizah remains in Anwar’s shadow while Samsul noted that she has none of his charisma that had helped bridge the gap among the three parties, especially between ideological opposites PAS and DAP in 2008 and 2013.
Even as the President of PKR, she has failed to unite the party. Party insiders talk of the rift between Rafizi and Azmin which culminated in what could possibly be another ‘Kajang Move’ to replace Azmin as the Menteri Besar. These divisions didn’t just exist recently. Instead it has been there since Azmin was appointed as Menteri Besar of Selangor. After more than one year, the party still remains divided.
What infuriates the public is the fact that the opposition led by Azizah cannot get its own party sorted out despite the scandals which overshadow the BN-run government. While BN is weak and vulnerable, the opposition still can’t execute the death blow due to its own incompetency and disunity.
I can’t imagine what she has to go through as a wife to a jailed husband and a matriarch to one of the most influential political dynasties in Malaysia. I do sympathise. But sympathy won’t give her the key to Putrajaya. Over-reliance on her husband’s legacy will also not give her the key to Putrajaya.
Pakatan Harapan needs to find a suitable candidate before it is too late. If they don’t, they won’t not only fail to capture Putrajaya, but also they might even lose Selangor and Penang to Barisan Nasional.