Azmin clear favourite in PKR polls

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It is time for Anwar to let the party grassroots decide who they want rather than who he wants.

Joceline Tan, The Star

There are clear signs showing that Azmin Ali is surging ahead of his rivals in the race for the PKR deputy president post.

THE husband-and-wife drama over the PKR presidency has finally ended. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has pulled out of the contest for Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah to go on for a record fifth term.

The real winner is, of course, Anwar. He can continue as the ketua umum (general leader), a post that has no specified responsibilities yet carries unlimited powers. That’s the way he likes it.

The latest development is being read as an indication that Datuk Saifuddin Nasution, the “horse” that Anwar was said to be backing in the race for the deputy president post, is not going to make it to the finishing line.

Anwar can smell where the wind is blowing and the fact that his wife is holding on to the reins says it all.

The insider account is that Dr Wan Azizah is ready to retire in favour of Anwar. However, whoever becomes the No. 2 would have to take over as president if Anwar is convicted in his sodomy case.

Dr Wan Azizah does not mind Saifuddin being up there, but she cannot accept Azmin Ali. That was why Saifuddin is in the race.

However, what she wants is quite different from what her party members want.

With just three more days before the voting starts, the signs are that Azmin has a clear edge over both Saifuddin and Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

A massive crowd greeted Azmin at the Kota Kinabalu airport when he arrived to campaign in Sabah last weekend. His supporters have been WhatsApping pictures of the surging crowd as proof of his support in this important state.

Local warlord Datuk Lajim Ukim, said to be aligned to Dr Wan Azizah, hosted an event for Azmin. Then again, Lajim was also present at Khalid’s campaign gathering.

Sabah and Selangor are the two biggest states for the party.

The understanding is that whoever carries these two states will win the No. 2 post.

Selangor is Azmin’s fortress and no one doubts his command of the ground. His tentacles are everywhere even though Khalid heads the state government.

Khalid is a popular Mentri Besar but popularity among the people does not always equate with popularity in the party.

“As the MB, Khalid has done well. But if you talk about the reformasi struggle, it is Azmin who has been there from day one,” said a senior PKR politician from Terengganu.

Khalid, who only joined the party in 2006, has been well received in many states. He obviously has deep pockets because a number of his campaign gatherings have involved lunches and dinners in hotels and restaurants.

But there have also been campaign stops at the humble warung and mamak stalls.

However, the attacks from his own Pakatan Rakyat representatives at the recent Selangor legislative assembly affected his image and the on-going water rationing is not helping him.

Azmin has worked hard to get to where he is today and his supporters think it is unfair that he is being denied what he deserves. But that is life – one does not always get what one deserves.

Azmin had initially thought Saifuddin would be the one to beat because the latter had managed to get Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar to join his team.

Rafizi is the party’s strategy director, while Nurul Izzah is vying for a second term as vice-president.

However, Nurul Izzah seems to be distancing herself from the team. She has been moving about on her own and even turned up for an event with Khalid.

“I told her to be independent of any group because she can win on her own name. She does not need Saifuddin, they will drag her down,” said the Terengganu politician.

A pro-Pakatan online portal had trumpeted that “Saifuddin is front-runner in bid to dislodge Azmin”. However, Saifuddin is lacking that special spark and has not been successful in igniting interest in his candidature.

There is a sad-looking photo circulating in social media showing Saifuddin and Rafizi seated in a near empty community hall during a campaign stop in Batang Kali, Selangor.

Another photo shows them waiting outside another community hall for a crowd that did not show up.

While Nurul Izzah is a stand-alone brand name, the same cannot be said of Rafizi. Younger members will vote for him but the senior ones are still upset about his role in the failed Kajang Move.

They think this is what happens “when you make strategies inside an air-con room”.

Moreover, as the Terengganu politician pointed out, Pakatan lost three key seats – Kemaman (where Rafizi is the division chief), Kulim Bandar Baru (contested by Saifuddin in 2013) and Machang (Saifuddin’s seat in 2008).

“Don’t talk about being the third force, you cannot even ensure that we win these seats,” said the Terengganu politician.

At the launch of his campaign last week, Azmin invited Lunas assemblyman Azman Nasaruddin to deliver the opening remarks.

Cikgu Azman, as he is known up north, is vying for the division chief post of Padang Serai, which is the biggest division in Kedah.

Azman spoke very well but his presence on stage was a subtle way of telling Saifuddin, who is from Kedah, that Azmin has support in the northern state.

There has been too much political intrigue coming from Istana Segambut. It is time for Anwar to let the party grassroots decide who they want rather than who he wants.