Step aside Anwar, it’s time for ‘team leadership’

Anwar Ibrahim must make way for ‘clean’ leaders with good values who can inspire and energise Malaysians.

The belief by many quarters that Anwar is still indispensable and still the best choice is not true under the present changing political landscape.

Awang Abdillah, Free Malaysia Today

The power struggle between Umno and Pakatan Rakyat is not so much about the virtues of good leadership and performance but rather a clash of ideas.

Since 1981, when then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumed power, Umno has been deviating from its original struggle.

Led by Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister, the opposition tried to topple the Umno-led government through essentially the exposure of the misdeeds of the ruling party leaders.

And in the 2008 general election, victory smiled on the opposition when it wrested 82 seats from the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Let us look at Pakatan and its form of leadership. In effect, Pakatan is a one-man show.

Anwar provides the sole leadership to the three coalition partners – DAP, PAS and PKR.

This is not a desirable leadership quality and it needs to be corrected in the post-Anwar era, especially now that Pakatan appears to have been accepted as the alternative government.

Pakatan must show that it also has a better national leadership and can perform better if elected as the federal government.

Let us examine the type of leadership Pakatan went through with Anwar at the helm.

Three types of leadership

There are basically three types of leadership – sole leadership, team leadership and collective leadership.

Sole leadership

This is a situation where there is only one leader who can lead a party or nation and it is hard to find a good second-echelon team of leaders.

Sole leadership is generally unhealthy and risky. It may lead to power abuse by the sole leader leading to an undemocratic or even dictatorial government.

Since the 1999 general election until today, Pakatan has been solely led by Anwar though the leadership is more confined to politics of exposure rather than about good leadership.

Hence, Pakatan’s success has not rested on “good alternative leadership” but rather it has sailed on the relentless exposure of the weaknesses and bad track records of Umno leaders.

Such disclosures convinced the people to reject the ruling party and seek an alternative government. Anwar’s strategy has worked but not fully.

But Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is no ordinary leader.

He has launched a psychological war to counter the opposition through veiled schemes and plots which went unnoticed until the Jan 9 verdict on Anwar’s Sodomy II case.

After a lengthy trial, Anwar was acquitted and discharged. Najib had successfully kept Anwar and Pakatan busy with the trial for the past three years.

Now Pakatan should come up with a strategy whereby Anwar should slowly withdraw. His brand of sole leadership is not relevant anymore.

Ahead of the 13th general election, Pakatan should adopt the “team leadership” concept to lead the coalition.

Such a strategy may even attract new parties to join the coalition.

Team leadership

So where does PKR go without Anwar? Many people have a wrong notion about leadership. The issue of leadership is not necessarily about one man. If there is no credible leader, not all is lost.

Ultimate power is vested in the people. Hence, an alternative leadership is not necessarily looking for a new leader, but leadership can be a “team” responsibility.

When the Holy Prophet Muhammad passed away, a new Caliph was appointed by the most trusted companions.

Under the new team, there was no let-up on Islam and the religion grew to become an empire.

In the Philippines, when opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr was assassinated, his wife Corazon Aquino took over and with the support of “people’s power”, she managed to overthrow president Ferdinand Marcos and became the president of the Philippines in 1986.

I believe the president of PKR, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, has the right leadership qualities to led the nation.

From 2008, Anwar should have given way to her to prove her mettle.

Assisted by their politically-savvy daughter Nurul Izzah, the two have it in them to change Malaysia’s history.

The duo can be assisted by S Ambiga, the chairwoman of Bersih 2.0 – the nucleus of Malaysian people’s power – PAS and DAP.

I believe with a clean record and a good value system, Wan Azizah and Nurul Izzah can become the icons of Muslim and Malaysian women.

Wan Azizah’s leadership would be accepted by all races including the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah to become the first woman prime minister of Malaysia.

Anwar can play a role to propel the coalition to move forward (much like India’s Sonia Ghandi who strategises Congress’s journey) and at the same time he can escape the wrath of Umno upon him, possibly avoiding the verdict from being overturned in the appeal trial later on.

The belief by many quarters that Anwar is still indispensable and still the best choice is not true under the present changing political landscape.