Khalid defiant amid pressure


Joceline Tan, The Star

The political intrigue in the PKR election has deepened with Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim being pressured to pull out of the race for the PKR deputy presidency before the last round of voting starts this weekend.

Khalid, who is vying for the No. 2 post against incumbent Azmin Ali and Datuk Saifuddin Nasution, was asked to withdraw from the race at a hush-hush meeting in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Bukit Segambut house on Thursday night.

Anwar’s reason was that he wanted to see a straight-fight between Azmin and Saifuddin. Anwar and the group also gave Khalid the assurance that he would remain as Mentri Besar until the end of the term if he withdraws from the election.

But Khalid refused point-blank and told the meeting that he was fighting on before leaving abruptly.

Khalid’s political secretary Azman Abidin confirmed that his boss is definitely in the contest and that Anwar has accepted the decision.

Those at the secret meeting included Anwar’s wife and party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, their daughter and vice-president Nurul Izzah and another vice-president Tian Chua.

Also present were Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah and former deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali.

The group is desperate to make Saifuddin the next deputy president but Saifuddin, who was until recently the secretary-general, has turned out to be a horse with a broken leg.

They think Azmin is too strong to beat in a three-way fight and that Saifuddin has a better chance without Khalid in the picture.

This is the second attempt to pressure Khalid to withdraw.

Anwar had tried to persuade Khalid not to contest shortly before the campaign began in April.

“Tan Sri Khalid has made it clear from the start that he will fight till the end,” said Azman, who is also Bandar Tun Razak PKR division chief.

Azman said that Khalid has a good chance in Selangor where he has run a clean government. He said Saifuddin should be the one asked to pull out because he is behind Azmin and Khalid. However Saifuddin has confirmed that he is not pulling out.

Azmin was leading with more than 12,800 votes until the election committee suddenly declared the results in several divisions null and void, thus reducing his votes to about 9,000.

Khalid is second with some 7,000 votes while Saifuddin is in last place with some 6,000 votes.

Party sources said there was also an attempt on Thursday to pressure the election committee to postpone polling in Selangor which is Azmin’s stronghold and which has the biggest membership in the party. But there were mixed reactions to the proposal which would have been scandalous had it been allowed to go forward.

Election chairman Datuk Johari Abdul when contacted gave the guarantee that the Selangor election would proceed as planned on Sunday. Kuala Lumpur and Negeri Sembilan will vote today.

It is also learnt that a few days before the secret meeting in Anwar’s house, Tian Chua and a lady Selangor executive councillor had approached the Mentri Besar about withdrawing but failed to persuade him.

Azmin’s supporters claimed that “Istana Segambut”, which is the nickname for the Anwar residence, is out “to block Azmin by hook or by crook”.

Anwar was also believed to have made calls to division leaders asking them to support Saifuddin. Johari said those who have complaints should go to him rather than the media.

“I want to run an above-board campaign. We are a national political party, not a boy scout organisation,” he said.

He also denied that he was taking “special orders” from Anwar or that he was biased towards Saifuddin. He claimed that he would stand firm like the Rock of Gibraltar against any pressure.

The party election, which has been plagued by low turnout, started on April 26 and will conclude tomorrow.