Pakatan now riding the Anwar factor

The Pakatan Rakyat convention was about riding on the momentum of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim‘s court acquittal but the man is now under pressure to get his act together and show he has what it takes to lead the coalition.

Anwar has lost a great deal in the last three years and his Pakatan colleagues are keeping their fingers crossed that he can now get his act together and focus on their Putrajaya dream.

By Joceline Tan, The Star

THE man of the hour at the Pakatan Rakyat convention was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and he made a grand entrance after lunch.

He had flown into Penang, from where he was escorted like a home-coming hero to Alor Setar for the Pakatan event.

It was his first appearance at a Pakatan event after his stunning acquittal last week and the camera flashes that trailed him from the car to the stage must have almost blinded him.

PKR is finding its voice again and the party’s logo dominated among the flags and banners that flushed the roads leading to the stadium.

For a while, PKR was treated like some sort of diseased cousins by PAS and DAP but with Anwar clearing the sodomy hurdle, the party is back in the reckoning.

The colourful banners announcing the event featured Anwar in a dominant pose alongside PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, DAP leader Lim Kit Siang and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak.

PKR deputy president Azmin Ali‘s speech at the opening was twice as long as that of his PAS counterpart Mohamed Sabu.

On stage, Anwar had the seat of honour, sandwiched between the two Tok Gurus Hadi and Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

The first Pakatan convention in 2009 was to launch the coalition and the second in 2010 was to unveil the Buku Jingga.

This one should have taken place last year. But every single party in the coalition had its own issues, chief of which was Anwar’s then pending court verdict and an embarrassing sex video.

The postponement turned out to be timely and as Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong put it, “things have now taken on a different tone”.

The convention was trying to ride on the momentum of Anwar’s acquittal.

They know the court verdict has been received very positively and the international media had begun to hail Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as a reform-minded Prime Minister.

The court decision has been hailed as sign of the reforms Najib is trying to bring into national politics and of the direction he is taking the country towards.

The choice of Kedah was to solidify the Malay ground. Kedah, among the Pakatan states, is in greatest danger now that the Malay vote has shifted back to Umno.

The gathering, said Liew, was also about opening up new fronts.

Pakatan is signalling that it is mounting a challenge on Barisan Nasional’s traditional turf namely the Felda vote, the civil service, its fixed deposits of Sabah and Sarawak and postal votes.

Hence, the floor was given to representatives from these key sectors during the morning portion of the event.

Among the speakers were former Sabah state secretary Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, former naval Brig-Gen Datuk Hadi Khatab, Felda activist Siti Khalijah and student leader Akram Ikrami.

Former Bar Council chairman Datuk S. Ambiga, who represented the NGOs, was rewarded with loud applause.

Ambiga draws mixed reaction from the Muslims for her role in the controversial apostasy case but there is no denying she has become a household name among the Malays after the Bersih 2.0 protest.

Pakatan also took the opportunity to showcase some of their young and up-and-coming leaders, which was a good thing because some of the oldest players in Malaysian politics today are in Pakatan and several of them were so frail that they had to be helped onto and down the stage.

The spotlight is on Anwar again but if the Alor Setar crowd was hoping for directions or hints of what he had in mind, they were disappointed.

In fact, he was almost upstaged by Lim Guan Eng for whom every speech is a ceramah and who had no qualms about blowing his Chief Minister’s trumpet.

Anwar has lost a great deal in the last three years and his Pakatan colleagues are keeping their fingers crossed that he can now get his act together and focus on their Putrajaya dream.

Pakatan leaders are as obsessed about getting to Putrajaya as the Barisan is about holding on to the capital.

They got the audience yesterday quite excited when they announced that the next convention would be in Putrajaya.

They say the convention is testimony that the coalition is coagulating into a permanent group that will rival the tenacity of its Barisan rival.

They say it is all right to sleep in the same bed and have different dreams as long as they stay united against the common enemy.

It sounds great in theory. In practice, it is another story.

As the Pakatan leaders said their piece on stage, an elderly PAS official was vigilantly trying to keep the men and women segregated in the press section.

As a result of the limited seating near the press area, some of the male reporters and bloggers spilled over into the area reserved for the women.

The official came by several times to impose his idea of a moral society.

When some reporters told him they were having problems with the power supply and whether he could help sort it out, he said: “That issue, I cannot help you. That is not my duty.”

Pakatan leaders say they want to bring change to the country and they are promoting the Buku Jingga as some sort of New Deal that they want to bring to Malaysians.

But regardless of whether or not they get to Putrajaya, some things will never change.