Looking to streetwise tactics in polls run-up

PKR wrapped up its national congress in Johor, screening videos of the Bersih protests and signalling that street protests will precede its bid to arrive in Putrajaya.

The host and Johor party chief, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, boasted that when his friends asked why the party did not hold the congress in Putrajaya, he told them the next one would be in Putrajaya.

By Joceline Tan, The Star

PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail occupied the most central spot on stage at the PKR national congress looking her usual serene self.

Her presidential address had not stirred up the PKR delegates the way the president’s speech should with a general election around the corner.

Some thought she was leaving the best for last but her winding-up yesterday turned into a passionate defence of her husband against allegations that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the man in the sex video.

She likened the video to the fake Rolexes that are sold in the night markets and condemned those who had re-labelled it as Wasiat Tok Guru Nik Aziz and distributed it in the vicinity of mosques.

She is standing by her man, insisting that the nose on the man in the video does not resemble Anwar’s nose.

The man himself looked a little bashful and fiddled with his Blackberry as his wife spoke.

It was not the sort of winding-up that one would have expected of the president but her family’s reputation is on the line and she wants her party to do well in the general election.

In fact, Kak Wan, as she is known in PKR, will be a central campaign issue for the party in the polls.

Delegates who attended an election briefing on the sidelines of the congress were told that Cerita Kak Wan or Kak Wan’s Stories would be turned into election pamphlets and even CDs for distribution during the general election.

“We believe women will relate to her accounts as a mother, wife and politician,” said PKR deputy information chief Sim Tze Tzin.

The social media will be a major tool in reaching out to the urban population.

Cost of living issues, corruption and scandals will also feature in their campaign. But the top issue at the congress was without a doubt the “cows and condos” issue.

On Saturday, photostated leaflets on it were flying about. By yesterday, it had been upgraded to big, glossy and colourful leaflets. They know a hot issue when they see one.

But as the congress drew to a close, it was clear that street protests would be an important part of the party’s build-up to the general election.

Videos of the last Bersih protests were screened during the winding-up sessions. The videos were the party’s call to arms.

Video footage of an aggressive Anwar at various ceramah, jabbing his finger in the air, his eyebrows arched high on his forehead and shouting accusations, added to the drama.

It was hard to believe that the man in the video was the same Anwar who had sat so passively beside his wife throughout the congress.

Street protests have served the party well after he was sacked from the ruling coalition and it looks that it will be employed again to build up the mood.

What they may not be aware is that the threat of protests is beginning to paint Pakatan Rakyat as a coalition of protests rather than one which is mature enough and ready to take over Putrajaya.

From the tone of the debate it looks like the next Bersih protest may take place in Selangor.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is unlikely to be overly thrilled at the thought of a messy demonstration in his backyard. A demonstration is always better in somebody else’s backyard.

He was absent on the first day because of a tight schedule in Selangor but he was present on the final day, looking rather tired and out of place.

Nevertheless, Selangor is being touted as a model of what Pakatan can do if it forms the Federal Government.

Khalid is the biggest PKR gun in government but he is also the male version of Dr Wan Azizah in PKR – a non-politician in the thick of politics. And his timing is often so off because just as a speaker was heaping praise on his administration, he was on the way out of the hall, headed for the men’s room.

But his winding-up was both humble and down-to-earth and the delegates could sense it was heartfelt.

He admitted his shortcomings, that he may have a corporate mind but the rakyat at heart.

He was quite strategic and instead of singing about Selangor’s achievements, he proclaimed his sincerity in whatever he did, confessed he was kedekut or stingy about spending public funds and talked about efforts to reform the state administration. He even proposed a forum to discuss why the New Economic Policy (NEP) is no longer needed.

He was unusually coherent. There was none of his usual sing-song way of talking, with sentences hanging in the air.

The delegates lapped it up and gave him a huge applause.

Maybe Khalid is not such a poor politician after all.

He must have made his rival and deputy president Azmin Ali sit up and take a second look at him.

Everyone knows Azmin is eyeing the Mentri Besar post despite his denial.

He has been much sought after at the congress. People rushed to shake his hand, to have their picture taken with him.

Aspiring election candidates want him to notice them because they know he has Anwar’s ears.

The host and Johor party chief, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, boasted that when his friends asked why the party did not hold the congress in Putrajaya, he told them the next one would be in Putrajaya.

The race for Putrajaya is on and so is the race to be candidates in the general election.