In PKR’s ‘Kajang Move’, analysts see shades of a ‘new Umno’

Kajang by-election

(MM) – PKR’s unilateral decision to trigger the Kajang by-election that caught allies DAP and PAS off-guard suggests a similarity to rival Umno’s dominance in Barisan Nasional (BN), according to two political analysts.

Both observers are convinced that despite the justifications offered by PKR in fielding de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the Kajang candidate, voters are aware that the “political” move was to quell an internal party feud between deputy president Azmin Ali and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

“It’s a facade. Make no mistake we are seeing a new Umno on the rise, one which can be really damaging for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in the near future… if  PKR keeps on making unilateral decisions like this,” Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) think-tank told The Malay Mail Online when contacted.

He said Malaysians and especially voters in Kajang should recall that Anwar and Azmin were once staunch Umno members and leaders, and that PKR’s recent actions suggest that the old Umno mentality may still be present within the party.

“If they would actually come clean and say that they have problems within the party, that would be more acceptable,” he said, of PKR.

He said that PKR had instead resorted to numerous “excuses” — ranging from racial to economic disasters — to justify the need to have Anwar in the Selangor state assembly.

“If you really want to see change in Malaysia, you must not allow another new Umno,” Wan Saiful said, adding that PR allies PAS and DAP were also victims as they had no choice but to concede to PKR’s demands in order to present a united front.

UKM academic Prof Shamsul Adabi Mamat said it was evident from the developments in Kajang that PKR was obstinate in its decision, despite rumblings of disagreement from ally PAS.

“We call this hypocrisy, but to them (politicians) it is called strategy,” he told The Malay Mail Online via telephone.

“PKR decided on this, or more specifically Anwar. Everyone else is expected to just get along with the programme,” said the political analyst.

Shamsul said that unlike PKR, Umno was at least still willing to compromise with its Barisan Nasional (BN) allies.

“If we look at Kajang, it is an MCA seat. Despite Umno being stronger, they are agreeing to let MCA contest.

“Even though Umno is dominant, they are still willing to talk things through,” Shamsul added.

Anwar previously said his entry into the Selangor government was necessary to tackle a rise in racial and religious tension as well as to use his political experience to deflect attacks against the state administration currently led by MB Khalid.

The opposition leader also said that replacing Khalid as Selangor MB is an option “on the table” should he win the Kajang state seat next month.

But despite PKR’s gradual admission that Anwar could eventually become MB, ally PAS has been vocal in its resistance to such a move, with the Islamist party’s Youth and ulama wings as well as the local chapter all expressing disagreement to the move.

While DAP did not confront PKR over the so-called “Kajang Move”, it has not mustered much enthusiasm for the gambit beyond saying it will go along with what the PR national leadership decides.

In a surprise move, PKR’s Lee Chin Cheh resigned as Kajang assemblyman, presumably to pave way for Anwar to contest the by-election.

The unforced resignation fuelled rumours that it was to allow Anwar to join the state assembly for the purpose of removing Khalid from his post.

The EC  has set March 23 as the polling date for the Kajang by-election, the country’s third since Election 2013 last May.

Nomination will be on March 11, while early voting has been set for March 19.

Lee won the Kajang state seat in Election 2013 with a 6,824-vote majority in the constituency that is 48 per cent Malay, 41 per cent Chinese and 10 per cent Indian.