Anwar warns PKR lawmakers to improve as polls loom

(The Malaysian Insider) – Stung by the latest desertion from the party, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has warned PKR lawmakers to “buck-up” if they want to run again in the next general election, widely expected this year.

The PKR de facto leader met party federal lawmakers and state assemblymen from Selangor at the state secretariat yesterday to give an “update” on their Sarawak campaign, the Sabah chapter’s leadership crisis, and well as outline measures needed to strengthen the party.

“We have been asked to step up our offensive. Activity planning will be churned out, including focus on upcoming Sarawak elections… consolidating efforts are under way,” said a PKR federal lawmaker who was present at the meeting.

It is understood that Anwar warned them that only qualified leaders who performed well in their duties would be chosen to contest in the next elections.

The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lynchpin has been seen as a stumbling block within the opposition coalition in recent months, with as many as six MPs quitting the party since last year.

The latest defections from the party are Sabah PKR chief Pajudin Nordin and Padang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishnan. Datuk Zaid Ibrahim left last November during the party’s fractious elections and is now helming Parti Kita.

Anwar also focussed on the party’s plans for Sarawak which must hold its state election by this July.

He was in the state, Malaysia’s largest, over the weekend to strategise with Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian, coincidentally at the same time Datuk Seri Najib Razak met ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers in Miri, where the prime minister launched the national Chinese New Year open house.

Both coalitions are working to get as many seats as possible in Sarawak, which is usually seen as a fixed deposit for BN. But PR has also been focusing on Chinese majority seats in the urban areas apart from trying to expand its influence in the interior.

“The party is beginning a two-month intensive campaign prep under Baru Bian’s stewardship, we are streamlining strategy and programmes so it is done in a structured manner,” said the lawmaker.

It is understood that party leaders will be making frequent trips to Sarawak within the next two months to help solidify PKR’s campaign machinery there.

The Malaysian Insider understands that all party leaders will now be assigned specific “job scopes” in respective states, in an attempt to restructure the party’s focus.

But Anwar also spoke about defending PKR’s hold on Selangor, the country’s wealthiest and most developed state which it won in Election 2008.

“We also discussed at length the importance of maintaining Selangor and how candidates fielded in future depended on (their) current performance,” said the PKR MP.

PKR chief strategist Rafizi Ramli, who was also present during the meeting, admitted that the recent spate of defections had “derailed” the party from focusing on policy reforms.

“Policy reforms are what we need to focus on… the defections have affected our focus, and that was the purpose of the meeting today, to restrategise and refocus,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Rafizi claimed that PKR’s formation of a presidential council in Sabah was the best way to solve the impasse there.