Anwar Ibrahim’s PD move kicked up quite a storm of protest as critics felt a by-election was forced again to fast-track his path to the premiership. Many felt it was undemocratic to let an elected Member of Parliament step down to pave the way for him to get elected.
Anwar’s options were limited. He couldn’t possibly wait for an MP to die to take his place as that would be tasteless and he couldn’t really wait for the next general elections as that would be too long. Hence, it was politically expedient for him — as the elected MP for Port Dickson (PD) Danyal Balagopal Abdullah willingly stepped down — to stand for elections in PD.
But, I hope it would be the last time a by-election is forced because it really disrespects the will of the people. In this case, because the people voted for the coalition rather than the candidate, and considering Anwar’s special case, it can be accepted. But, Anwar’s candidature must be contested to prove he has the support of the people and it falls on the opposition to offer a viable challenge to test it. It is a duty of the opposition to ensure that a potential prime minister has the support of the people he or she may claim to have.
One factor that will be a detriment to Anwar is the fact that the PD move was hatched while many PKR leaders were kept in the dark. This belies a severe rift in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) which is Anwar’s responsibility as party president to resolve. That, however, doesn’t seem to be happening.
Meanwhile, other parties are taking advantage of the lack of unity in PKR to form pacts to push themselves back into government. The guilty party is Umno, shamelessly seeking to make deals with the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) partners as they openly declare their intention to be in government. Umno is said to have approached Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), and had sent out feelers to Anwar.
Some may say it’s Umno’s right to form pacts in order to get back into government. It needs to be noted here that this was the leading party in the former government which was rejected by the people. The people don’t want Umno to be in government. The people voted in the PH so that Umno would be kicked out of government. In other words, the ruling coalition partners would be disrespecting the wishes of the people if any of them forms any deal or alliance with Umno.
At all cost, no deal or pact must be made with Umno because it would be opening the door to let in a viral corrupt contagion which would infect the current effort to maintain a clean, corruption-free government. It needs to be reminded that this was the party which stood by silently and pocketed all the money and benefits they could get and did nothing as the nation spiralled downwards in gross mindless mismanagement!
Umno as it is is toxic. Every effort must be made to keep it out of government — until it sheds its billionaire members and a new crop of leaders are raised up who will serve the people on government allocations alone. It has to start by being an effective opposition learning to serve the constituents rather than seeking power and resources for its own benefit. By standing against Anwar in PD, Umno will be sending a clear message to the electorate that it seeks the people’s support to build a base to form a legitimate government in the future rather than circumventing the people to enter government by the back door!
This leads me to the next crucial point. More significant than Anwar’s PD move is the PKR deputy president’s contest. The deputy president will be a potential prime minister after Anwar. Dr M is the incumbent transition PM; Anwar will be the interim PM. My feeling is that Anwar won’t be PM for long, maybe for just a term or two. It is the prime ministers who come after Anwar who need to be picked, groomed and primed for the post now because it is they who will determine if this nation will be propelled forward!
The deputy president’s position will not automatically thrust the candidate into the premiership. The candidate must win elections in a party which has a majority of Malay support. At present, PH has the least of Malay support, only at 25% to 30%. Umno has the most Malay votes at 35% to 40%, followed by PAS with 30% to 33%. (All figures are Merdeka Centre estimates based on GE14 results.)
As long as Malay votes are split three-ways, the wheeling and dealing will continue. Right now Umno is ahead but it doesn’t have East Malaysian bumiputra support or the non-Malay vote, both of which are safely with PH. That configuration may change unless PH succeeds in winning more Malay votes to its side.
For that to happen, PH coalition partners need to set in place leaders who are best able to appeal to the rural Malay voter. PKR members have to keep this factor in mind when electing either Datuk Seri Azmin Ali or Rafizi Ramli as the deputy president. In the current times, that is a priority. When Malay support is secure, candidates with other qualities may become relevant.
When the ruling coalition has a strong Malay base, it will be in a better bargaining position.