Azmin juggernaut takes off


Azmin Ali established a clear lead over his rivals in the fight for the deputy presidency as he swept through the first round of the party election last weekend.

Joceline Tan, The Star

PEOPLE had been talking about the “Azmin juggernaut” weeks before the PKR election started.

Everyone in the party knew he was the man to beat in the contest for the PKR deputy president post and it was said that whoever wants to be the next No. 2 has to be able to stop the “Azmin juggernaut’.

But Azmin Ali (pic) is looking quite unstoppable in his bid for a second term as the party’s deputy president.

azmin ali

He has taken pole position in every single one of the states that had finished voting during the first weekend round of the party election.

His supporters had tried to paint him as the underdog holding at bay the powerful Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Datuk Saifuddin Nasution who is said to have the backing of PKR’s power couple.

They told some reporters that their boss does not have an important government position (like Khalid) nor is he a Datuk (like Saifuddin).

But they conveniently left out that their boss had something more important, namely, the political networking on the ground.

This network of allies and friendship was on display last weekend as the division chiefs whom he has been cultivating over the years delivered the votes to Azmin.

The ballot count for the six states that have finished voting has come in and Azmin has secured some 59% of the popular vote so far. Khalid’s share of the votes is 25% while Saifuddin secured only 16%.

Khalid is not doing too badly and can still catch up with a little bit of luck and lots of hard work. He has a strong and well-organised campaign team led by his political secretary Azman Abidin.

Khalid is confident that his campaign theme of Integriti, Telus, Bersih (integrity, transparency, honesty) will sell well especially in the urban divisions on the west coast and he will be making a strong bid for votes in Sabah which is the biggest state for the party.

But his team was quite disappointed about Sarawak. Khalid expected to do better there because he had been well-received by the local leaders when he was there.

But Azmin had sewn up the Sarawak support after securing the endorsement of Sarawak’s big boys – state chairman Baru Bian and his vice-chiefs See Chee How and Ali Biju.

All three are popular assemblymen who are seen as genuine local leaders.

As a result Azmin got a clean sweep of votes in Lawas where Baru is the big man and Stampin where See is the division chief. Ali also delivered 99% of the votes in Saratok to Azmin.

It has also given Azmin some bragging rights that his appeal cuts across ethnic lines because Lawas is Orang Ulu territory, Saratok is Iban while Stampin is urban Chinese. His boys are also claiming that his campaign theme of Keadilan Raya or Great Justice resonates well in the party.

But it is in Kelantan where he has been most pleasantly surprised. Kelantan is supposed to be Saifuddin’s stronghold because he was the former Machang MP and had worked for a PAS leader in Kota Baru for many years. But he is trailing badly even in Kelantan where he managed to secure only about one-third of the votes that Azmin got.

Saifuddin’s lustreless performance is quite shocking given that he is the calon wahyu, the candidate who is supposed to have the blessings of PKR’s power couple Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

There are two ways to interpret this. One, he is not deputy president material in the eyes of the grassroots and, two, the grassroots disapprove of the way the powerful Anwar family is trying to control key positions in the party.

But even more shocking was that Rafizi Ramli would have lost in the fight for the Kemaman division leadership had the Kemaman election not been cancelled midway. Terengganu PKR sources said Rafizi was trailing when a complaint was lodged about a technical glitch in the nomination numbers.

Rafizi is the brains behind Saifuddin’s team which had touted itself as the “third force” that aspires to save the party from infighting. But the third force is now struggling to save itself.

The first weekend of polling has been marred by embarrassingly low voter turnout and technical boo-boos.

Those aligned to some of the candidates have started to make noise about phantom voters and fraud but the reality is that among all the candidates, Azmin is the only one with a real track record as a party organiser and leader.

In fact, Azmin’s track record in this respect exceeds even that of Dr Wan Azizah who is largely seen as a unifying figurehead.

Party politics is not like instant noodles, which can be cooked up on the spot. Getting a handle on party politics involves years of networking and delivering on promises and it is also about shared ambitions and dreams.

But these are still early days in the polls. The election will be largely determined by the three biggest vote banks in the party, that is, Sabah, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Saifuddin is starting to look like a lame horse. It is unlikely that he can run any faster in the remaining states if he cannot even secure his stronghold state of Kelantan.

In that sense, the battle in Sabah, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur will be largely fought out between the two real thoroughbreds, Azmin and Khalid.