One top Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader and now minister Zuraida Kamaruddin says that PKR elections this time will prove whether the party can move away from feudal politics.
"We want to advocate mature,progressive politics and do away with feudal politics but we have the 'blessings business' in the party," says Zuraida, referring to many trying to fish votes by dropping names of the top echelons of the party.
She was commenting on PKR's first party elections since it became part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, which is being watched closely by both PH supporters and opposition Barisan Nasional.
We want to advocate mature,progressive politics and do away with feudal politics but we have the 'blessings business' in the party
This is because it is also the first time since its now President but long-time former de-facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been pardoned and he is slated to replace Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
There was initial hesitation from Anwar to step up and take on the president's mantle from his wife, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as she publicly announced she was not letting go her Deputy Prime Minister's post or relinquish power.
Wan Azizah has been helming the party top post ever since its formation, due to Anwar being in and out of jail.
However, the pressure from within the party was too much and the de-facto chief post has become irrelevant as Anwar is now a free man.
Wan Azizah then proposed her husband and seconded by fellow party member Sim Tze Tsin, and as expected no one stood against him, Anwar won uncontested.
Now, that the president's post has been taken, the gaze is on the Deputy President's post, a fight between Azmin Ali and Rafizi Ramli. This contest is not a new one, it has been simmering for so long. All swords are out to get to the tops and the contest is on to be the next strongest man in the party after Anwar.
It is an open secret that Azmin and Rafizi are both Anwar's confidantes. While Rafizi has a bit more of a clout with Wan Azizah and enjoys Anwar's ears, Azmin goes back to when Anwar was a DPM and on top of that, Azmin is a blue-eyed boy of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and is now a minister with one of the strongest portfolios in the government.
Political researcher and former Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's Associate Professor Abdul Latiff Mohd Ibrahim says the "silence" of Anwar speaks loudly of his preference.
"Where is the supreme leader (Anwar) inclined to? My take is, by not endorsing anybody, he is more (inclined) towards Rafizi. One will have to closely scrutinise Anwar’s words from now till the elections are held. If he constantly harps on “reform”, it becomes quite clear what he wants. Similarly if he talks about “party stability”, again you may be able to guess his inclination. Whether you like it or not, PKR is near absolute Anwar Ibrahim."
"Also, his refraining from praising Azmin for his “stellar” stewardship of Selangor when he was the Chief Minister before he moved into the government also gives some indication," says Abdul Latiff.
Where is the supreme leader (Anwar) inclined to? My take is, by not endorsing anybody, he is more towards Rafizi
While Azmin is the more quiet one, probably with more guerilla warfare on the ground, keeping his cards clutched to his chest, Rafizi is all out on an attack mode.
Rafizi has even resorted to calling PKR members to find out if he would be voted for.
"I am running for Deputy President's post. Press 1 if you agree. Press 2 if you do not agree. Will you come out to vote? Press 1 if you will. Press 2 if you won't," Rafizi states in a recorded message.
(He defended allegations of misusing personal data of members in making those calls stating that he was merely using new technology for his campaign.)
The audio recording of a phone survey asking the recipients if they agreed with Rafizi Ramli's nomination
The vice president's post is being contested by candidates presumed to be either Azmin's and Rafizi's team players. Rafizi has openly announced who are on his team - getting flak for that - but Azmin has decided to let the party members to just guess and vote.
Abdul Latiff says that both camps of Azmin and Rafizi have notable PKR personalities.
"The decider would be which side has the most number of top and middle-level leaders who can galvanise support. By support, I mean ability to convince the grassroots. While Azmin has that reach by way of his access to government ‘largesse’; Rafizi probably would have to rely on his “defiant” “struggler of principles” stand to garner support.
I am offering to the members, especially the youth a combination of Triple A (Anwar-Azmin-Afif), that will uphold the unity of the party and provides the best leadership team for the party and Malaysians
Dr Afif Baharuddin, who is vying for the Youth Chief post says that he proposes the "AAA team" - Anwar, Azmin and Afif - as the best combination to lead the party into the new future.
"I am offering to the members, especially the youth a combination of Triple A (Anwar-Azmin-Afif), that will uphold the unity of the party and provides the best leadership team for the party and Malaysians.
"We are offering this to the members for them to choose and to decide on the party’s future. I leave it to members - this direct democracy. However, once party members decide, I am ready to work with everyone as long they are committed to the reform agenda."
"The new line up will provide stronger leadership to enhance the Reformasi agenda and continuation of Dasar Peduli Rakyat (Care for the People)," says Afif, with a disclaimer.
He, however, points out that despite the teams that seem to exist in the party, PKR is unlike Umno.
"We offer governance and accountability, unlike UMNO which is a kleptokrat," says Afif, simply.
Abdul Latiff, however, begs to differ.
He says that PKR is an amalgam of different ideological backgrounds, from pure nationalistic (read UMNO-types) to Islamist of the Muslim Youth Association (ABIM) and Humanitarian Care Malaysia (IKRAM) types.
(ABIM and IKRAM were NGOs for the movement of young Muslim professionals before many of the leaders started their political careers in UMNO).
"However, if you look at the leadership, the political style of UMNO looks quite obvious. While PKR is touted as a party espousing “reform”, the political side to it is still quite “old school” of the UMNO type. But politics does get nasty at times, more so during internal party elections.
"Probably, but not much difference because if you look at Azmin, he has already been in government for so long, at least since 2014.
"If you were to consider UMNO-style politics, then an important position in government would somewhat influence the candidate you would choose. Delegates don’t want an important minister without an important party position," says Abdul Latiff.
All said and done, now we shall wait for PKR members to press 1 or press 2.
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