PKR in two minds over ‘Third Force’ candidates

PKR leaders remained undecided over the plans by an independent group to propose a slate of election candidates for the party, preferring to stick to its internal process.

PKR information chief Latheefa Koya admitted the party had compromised on the quality of candidates in the last election but said that the process has been improved since the formation of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) after Election 2008.

She also pointed out that the party’s success in the last general election had managed to attract more talents into the party.

“In 2008, there was no Pakatan Rakyat, so our priority for PKR, DAP and PAS was to ensure a straight fight with Barisan Nasional (BN),” Latheefa told The Malaysian Insider.

“We had to compromise on the quality of candidates. The qualified ones were not ready, because if they lose they would have lost everything,” she said.

“Now in some seats we have two to three people lining up to be the candidate,” said Latheefa (picture), who was one of the party’s strategists in Petaling Jaya in the last general election campaign.

When opening PKR’s Youth and Wanita congress, outgoing deputy president Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali asked the party to handle the “Third Force” with care and said that the group could prevent PR from achieving a huge victory in the next general election.

The ongoing PKR congress however has been silent on the issue, preferring to focus on the status of de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The initiative to prepare candidates for the general election is led by lawyer-cum-blogger Haris Ibrahim and his group called the Barisan Rakyat.

Haris had said that the objective of the group is to offer strong candidates who would not switch allegiance in case PR forms the next federal government.

The candidates, who have been vetted through a stringent process, would only contest as independents if they are rejected by PR parties.

The group of activists and bloggers has been campaigning against BN since before Election 2008, which saw the ruling coalition losing its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time and losing control of four states.

They were also behind a manifesto called The People’s Declaration that was endorsed by all PR parties ahead of the 12th general election.

The group was also influential in mobilising urban voters to back PR candidates in 2008.

Today, Latheefa described the move to force PKR to accept a list of outsiders as candidates as unfair.

“So now they are presenting a list of people who have not shown any commitment to the organisation. Which organisation will accept this? We are presented with another risk,” she said.

Latheefa did not think that the group’s candidates would affect PKR’s votes if they were to contest as independents.

“I doubt it very much. I don’t want to sound arrogant but in our history people have always voted for familiar symbols. People still go for organisational back-up,” she said.

Meanwhile, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution distanced the party from the group’s initiative but was non-committal when asked if PR parties would accept its candidates.