Critical time for Khalid in PKR polls


The PKR election will reach a watershed point when Sabah votes this weekend because the votes in this second biggest state in the party can make or break a candidate.

Joceline Tan, The Star

THERE has been a rumour going around the last couple of days that Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim might pull out of the PKR election.

His team has rubbished it as “absolutely not true”. They said that backing out is not even in the vocabulary of their boss, who is making a bid to be the next deputy president of PKR.

“Take it from me, there is no such thing. I met him on Monday and he was full of ideas on how to redouble our efforts for this weekend especially in Sabah,” said Pandan division chief and political ally Zakaria Rahim.

Sabah, which is the second biggest vote bank for the party, will be the deal breaker, and Khalid’s political secretary Azman Abidin has been campaigning hard the last few days.

Sabah has always been quite problematic for PKR. It is a complex state with lots of clashing ambitions and too many warlords. But one very influential warlord, namely, Datuk Lajim Ukim, has thrown his support behind Khalid and pledged to deliver the votes.

Azman has also organised for observers to be stationed in all the voting stations following allegations of irregularities in Sarawak last weekend.

For instance, Batang Sadong in Sarawak became the butt of jokes following complaints of an electricity blackout during voting. This is the sort of thing that PKR likes to say about others and it was amusing to see it happening in their own party polls.

Zakaria has lodged a complaint to the party’s election body, causing the Batang Sadong election result to be frozen pending investigation. The last time, Batang Sadong made this much news was during the hunt for a man-eating crocodile with a mouth so big that it could easily swallow two politicians in one go.

The first weekend of voting in Sarawak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and Malacca has been a letdown for Khalid. Khalid and Datuk Saifuddin Nasution are trailing behind incumbent Azmin Ali, who has lived up to his reputation as a powerhouse and is leading in five out of six states.

However, Saifuddin managed to trounce both his opponents in Pahang, where the big voter turnout in the Indera Mahkota division helped him take the state.

Azmin is in front with 5,111 votes, followed by Saifuddin with 2,322 votes and Khalid 2,228 votes.

This weekend will be critical for Khalid. Five states – Sabah, Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak – are voting.

Both Khalid and Saifuddin need to do well in Sabah if they want to be regarded as serious contenders to Azmin. Sabah, which has 93,300 members, is second only to Selangor with 170,000 members. The conventional wisdom is that whoever takes Sabah and Selangor will take home the trophy.

The outcome in Kedah will also be very important for Saifuddin. Kedah is his homestate, where he was born and where he first contested and won a by-election. He has to take Kedah or else his standing will take a hard knock.

But the biggest headache for Azmin and Khalid is not Saifuddin per se, but the powerful Anwar Ibrahim family, who is said to be backing Saifuddin.

Saifuddin is not exactly deputy president material, yet he is the chosen one or anak mas. There are all sorts of stories going around that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been calling division chiefs all over the country to canvass votes for Saifuddin.

They claimed that if Saifuddin carries Penang tomorrow, then it is a clear sign of “interference” from Anwar.

Of course, not everyone is pleased about the favouritism going on. They said that PKR’s power couple should not treat the party as a “Sdn Bhd” (private limited company) and they should allow the members to choose who they want.

Khalid had been fighting too many fires the last few weeks but, on Monday, he managed to douse one of the fires when he ended the unpopular water rationing in Selangor. Khalid’s image has been affected by the water crisis and he is quite relieved that the decision has been taken and he can now focus on the PKR election.

The PKR circle has been talking about a rather curious tweet by Khalid shortly after he announced the end of water rationing in the state.

The tweet read: “I do not intend to be Mentri Besar for a third term. But I will continue to serve until the end of this term.”

Some saw it as an apology of sorts for the hardships caused by the water crisis while others imagined he was giving up.

Actually, it was a strategic move aimed at pre-empting any assumptions about his position as Mentri Besar. Khalid knows that there will be a renewed attempt to make him go if he fails to win the deputy presidency.

He was basically saying: Look, I am not planning to stay on indefinitely, so don’t push me. I will make way for the next man by the next general election.

In short, he is buying time for another four years. He has also been telling the party faithful that if he wins, he will spend 50% of his effort on party work and he wants a bigger role for the party in Selangor’s development.

The man whom his party has often described as a “lousy politician” is actually rather savvy when it comes to his political survival.