April 8, 2015
PKR shouldn’t take Pmtg Pauh voters for granted
by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: It looks almost certain that PKR will field its President, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as its candidate for the Permatang Pauh by-election. It would be a mistake because that would take the voters of Permatang Pauh for granted.
Many voters must have felt this way the last time they were asked their opinion – at the 13th general election on May 5, 2013. Anwar Ibrahim’s plurality was whittled down from the 15,000-plus he obtained in the by-election of August 2008, forced when incumbent Azizah resigned to pave the way for her husband to resume being the area’s MP, to a 11,000-plus majority in GE13.
It was a significant decrease in an election where popular sentiment ran in favour of a change of federal government. The reduced majority reflected voter disdain for Anwar’s airy presumption that he could, in emulation of DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, leave his bastion of Permatang Pauh to stand in other seats; constituencies in Perak and in the Federal Territory were bruited about.
In the immediate prelude to GE13, an already peripatetic Kit Siang caused a sensation by leaving his Ipoh Timor constituency to contest in Gelang Patah in Johor – to spearhead the DAP thrust into UMNO’s heartland. That decision was taken in the exuberant expectation that popular sentiment running in favour of Pakatan Rakyat would carry DAP to unprecedented electoral gains.
Anwar was infected by the exuberance which led him to hint that he, too, was considering a move to another seat.This was resented by the Malay voters, especially in Penanti, the state seat in Permatang Pauh.
Both Anwar and the PKR candidate, Dr Norlela Ariffin lost in nearly all the Malay-majority precincts in Penanti, an extraordinary fact that went unremarked at that time.In the event, only sweeping Chinese-voter preference for PKR carried Norlela through.
Given the choice of Norlela as the PKR candidate, the Malay voters in Penanti must have been dismayed that Pakatan Rakyat’s Prime Minister-designate could not find someone less embarrassingly inept than the party’s Penanti nominee. But Norlela was not Anwar’s choice; it was Azizah’s.
After the election, Norlela was appointed as Penang PKR Wanita Chief. To the huge relief of the Penang wing of the party, she quit after a few months.
The mistake of choosing Norlela ought to have been a chastening experience for Azizah. It proved not, judging from some of the choices made by Azizah in recent months. The Speaker of the Penang State Assembly, Low Choo Kiang, was made Deputy Chief of the Penang PKR Committee in the line-up announced three months ago.
Low, a party stalwart of proven fidelity, was assumed to be content with withdrawal to the fringes, following his failure to be reappointed as state executive councilor after the May 2013 general election.
His appointment to the Speaker’s position was consolation for the drop from the state exco and the assumption was that that would be the end of the road for a lightweight like him. But he felt differently and when the composition of the state PKR committee was mulled, he lobbied Azizah for a position.
It is the democratic norm that when someone is appointed State Speaker, he cannot hold a position in a political party and must relinquish it if he does.Supposed champions of democracy like PKR ought to know and uphold the democratic norm.
Likely, Azizah did not know this – how could she when she has no talent for politics! – and Low did not bother to let on. Low’s appointment as Deputy Chief of Penang PKR was not Azizah’s only gaffe when it came to the composition of the state committee.
Cheah Kah Peng, a lawyer who is PKR state assemblyperson for Kebun Bungah, was appointed Penang PKR’s Director of Strategy, quite a leap for a person of his track record. In the 2004 general election, Cheah was selected by PKR to be its parliamentary candidate for Bayan Baru. He had lobbied the party to field candidates in DAP seats on the grounds that this strategy would destroy the DAP.
Surprising for one of his stridency, Cheah did not show up on nomination day in Bayan Baru for GE11. PKR had to hastily co-opt a PKR nobody to file papers in Cheah’s place.
Today, Cheah is not only PKR’s rep for Kebun Bungah, he is close to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who has let on that he considers Cheah a hardworking state assemblyperson.
Guan Eng is wary of any Chinese leader of PKR who is strong and hardworking; if there is one, he thinks the person should be in the DAP. The only PKR Chinese reps he likes are those he considers pliable. Thanks to Azizah, one is nice nicely positioned as PKR Director of strategy for Penang.
Narration of this litany of lamentable choices can go on but like her husband, Azizah enjoys teflon-like immunity within PKR from the mistakes she makes.By oppressing him, UMNO has helped confer a cult-like status on Anwar. Naturally, it rubs off on his suffering spouse – to the long-term detriment of PKR. Say what you like, these UMNO guys know how to play the game of beggaring your rival.