“I see a bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today.”
– Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”
COMMENT | The mistake some people make is to choose sides when it comes to the camps in PKR. This is problematic because when proxies from either camp highlight issues affecting the rakyat, the issue gets lost in a quagmire of partisan posturing.
The fight within PKR is not some great ideological divide, as some participants would have you believe. It is rather about craven political moves to secure hegemony. There is nothing radical that the winner of either camp would inject into mainstream Malay politics. This is really a game of knaves.
Someone once asked me who do I prefer, PKR Deputy President Mohamed Azmin Ali or Vice-President Rafizi Ramli. I said, in a perfect world, they would be working together. Both have demonstrated a remarkable ability to remain relevant and contribute to Malay politics in a way that is – unfortunately – essential in running this country. Azmin plays it close to his chest, while Rafizi puts it out there.
People forget that these two leaders managed to hold it together even though they were at odds with each other. While I may have disagreed with Azmin holding onto PAS as Selangor Menteri Besar far longer than he should have, the moves Rafizi made to further his agenda in PKR were just as self-defeating.
While internal party conflict is not new, what is new is the context of this fight. PKR is a Malay-led political party struggling to define itself, even more so now with Bersatu in the mix. As a political party for all Malaysians, its Malay leadership is tearing the party apart, with the aid of non-Malay loyalists.
That’s the realpolitik of it. Which is also kind of juvenile. Think back to before the elections, when PKR was in a kerfuffle because of seat allocations – “Admittedly, Azmin claiming that he had no knowledge of the candidates’ list before the big reveal by Harapan bigshots was dodgy and furthered the narrative that it was amateur hour at PKR HQ, not to mention it had a whiff of mala fide. Also the tears flowing at the press conference of Rawang assemblyperson Gan Pei Nei (photo) were self-defeating as was Batu incumbent parliamentarian Tian Chua’s rejoinder to whoever to be careful.”
I just want to see who emerges when the dust settles. Demonising Azmin and going all creamy on Anwar and his camp may make good copy, but the reality is, this squabbling in PKR is damaging the idea – that dream, really – that a multiracial political party can survive in Malaysia. Scratch that – the idea a multiracial political party led by Malays can survive in Malaysia.
A non-Malay political operative from PKR who has chosen – so far – to remain, above the fray (or since, as he says, nobody has really noticed that he was elected) shakes his head whenever he talks about the camps in PKR. “We were given the keys to the kingdom and we are squabbling in the courtyard,” he said.
Another political operative saidthat Azmin is spooked, which is why he is making overt statements in the press or through his proxies. “Look, whatever you say about the PKR elections, his camp did better, right? So why shouldn’t the spoils go to them, this sounds crass but where is the fairness?” the political operative said. “…And, Azmin’s team has more influence, so this is politics, right?”
Is the press a contributing factor in this fight, a grassroots PKR activist asked me. I answered that political operatives use the press to wage their wars, and the latter is always in need of juicy copy because nobody seems interested in the real stuff.
I like the preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin and have written favourably about him before, but him saying that Anwar is going to be slaughtered soon by Azmin is the kind of rhetoric that escalates the conflict.
Even if was true, the fact is by saying it, you are demonstrating that you are on the losing end. A confident opponent does not announce his or her vanquishing before it happens. I do not know about anyone else, but I do not want a weak coterie leading a political party because, in the long term, this would be more damaging to Harapan. And this is what the other camp is doing. Painting themselves as weak.
Similarly, Azmin bitching about the new PKR appointments demonstrates that he is spooked by the possible challenge to his ascension. And yes Azmin’s camp has the numbers and this is the time for magnanimity, not moving in for the kill.
If Azmin played it right, he would have used this opportunity to close ranks, instead of openly challenging the choices of his party’s president, thus presenting himself as a shrewd leader instead of an usurper. If he doesn’t like Anwar’s choices, then by all means take a shot against the king, but he should remember not to miss.
Here and now
And really, what is wrong with Azmin crowing about his achievements over Anwar? Look, even Rafizi (photo) has achievements which are more contemporary to his president’s. Rafizi, and Azmin, are both relevant in a way that seems to elude Anwar.
Politics is essentially a ‘what have you done for me lately’ game, and Anwar – for various reasons – has been out of play. These days, Anwar, unfortunately, says things that spook the non-Malays, while someone like Azmin has been elevated to higher ground, thus commanding a better position.
Maybe this is the deeper implication of this fight. Is Anwar relevant in this political climate? While the Harapan grand poohbah has his loyal and public admirers, Anwar does not, unfortunately. Nor does he have a legacy which he can shake off, unlike the old maverick. In other words, Anwar’s ‘sins’ are never forgiven, while Mahathir’s seem to be.
And who are the other interested parties in the schisms of PKR? Who benefits most from this squabble? There are people in this government and outside of it who never really liked or trusted Anwar. They view his ascension to the highest office of the land as something calamitous.
So what do they do? They stoke the fires. They start memes that make Anwar look bad, but most of all, they align themselves with personalities so people are always asking, what the hell is going on?
And this is really why the fight within PKR is going to be the deciding factor in the longevity of the Harapan regime.
If, for whatever reason, PKR splits apart, the Harapan regime is in trouble. Trouble in the sense that there will be even more truculence in Malay power structures. When this happens, history has shown that it will affect our democratic institutions.
Honestly, at this point, I do not think that Anwar can maintain any sort of equilibrium between the camps. There seem to be no cooler heads in PKR, because the camps are determined to wipe each other out. Anything Anwar says or does comes off as self-serving, while Azmin has to contend with being the villain out to destroy the Reformasi movement.
Meanwhile, the vultures circle above.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.