PKR faces crunch time in party congress

By Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim will try to repair his damaged party at an annual congress this weekend, after a bruising bout of infighting that has hurt its prospects of seizing power.

Internal leadership elections in Anwar’s PKR, which serves as the glue in the three-member opposition alliance, exposed deep factional rifts and dented its image as a credible alternative government.

The brawling erupted just as speculation intensifes that the Barisan Nasional coalition, which is regaining ground after 2008 polls where it was humbled by the opposition, is preparing to hold snap polls early next year.

One of PKR’s leading lights, a former government minister Zaid Ibrahim who switched to the opposition in 2008, quit last week saying he was “sick of the sick leaders in the party” and that the party vote was marred by fraud.

Tian Chua, PKR’s strategy director, admitted there was much work to be done this weekend when some 2,000 party delegates will gather for two days to chart the party’s future and reassure the rank-and-file.

“I admit some supporters are anxious about whether our party elections have dented public support,” he said.

“The leadership’s immediate concern is to strengthen the party following its recent party election and prepare for possible snap polls,” he said. “I am confident in a few months’ time we can put in place a stable party.”

The 2008 elections were a watershed in the multicultural nation, resulting in a stampede towards the opposition among minority Chinese and Indians, and a weakening of support for the government from its voter base of Muslim Malays.

However, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who was appointed last year has worked to lure back minorities, and introduced measures to revitalise the economy, which had stagnated under his predecessors.

The coalition, which in 2008 looked like it was near the end of a half-century reign over Malaysia, now looks somewhat more attractive.

Slim chances

James Chin, a professor of political science at Monash University’s campus in Kuala Lumpur, tipped national polls to be held in the next few months and said that Anwar’s prospects of seizing power are now slim.