MB and the dark horse in the wing

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Another potential candidate has emerged for the Selangor mentri besar post amid Pakatan Rakyat’s internal power struggle to topple Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

Joceline Tan, The Star

DATUK Seri Hadi Awang is glad to be home in Rusila and thankful that he is able to spend the holy month with his family.

Stories about his health scare in Istanbul have trickled out and party leaders say he is lucky to be alive. His heart apparently stopped and doctors at the Istanbul hospital were amazed by his swift recovery.

PAS members who have been praying for his health say their president still has a lot of unfinished business on earth and in the party.

One such task would presumably be the political crisis surrounding the Selangor mentri besar post. PAS is caught in the complex politics to replace Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim with PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Hadi is scheduled to meet all the PAS assemblymen and MPs as well as party leaders from Selangor this Saturday on the issue, which has dominated news headlines the past month.

The influential circle around Hadi wants the party to nominate Selangor PAS commissioner Iskandar Samad for the job.

A PAS insider even claimed that Khalid hinted to Iskandar to be “on standby”.

The British-trained architect and second-term state executive councillor is said to enjoy the support of up to 80% of Selangor PAS. He is endorsed by the young Turks in the ulama group who are currently calling the shots in the party. PAS members appreciate that he rose through the ranks – a sign that he is very much a party man. Besides, the Palace is said to be comfortable with him.

Saturday’s meeting is for Hadi to hear out what the Selangor PAS leaders have to say.

The priority of Selangor PAS is also about maintaining its control of the mosques and surau, as well as the village committees. While PKR and DAP have a big say in appointments to the state GLCs, PAS dominates in appointing their supporters as penghulu and to committees that oversee the mosques and surau.

But there is a group aligned to deputy PAS president Mohamed Sabu who are of the opinion that Selangor will fall in the next general election if the mentri besar post goes to a PAS man. They know that the non-Malays do not like the idea of PAS at the top.

The central leadership of PAS is also of the opinion that the post should remain with PKR, given that PAS is already in charge of Kelantan and DAP, Penang.

As such, it is unclear as yet whether the meeting will decide on Iskandar as the candidate. What is clear is that PAS is not keen on PKR’s bid to make Dr Wan Azizah the next mentri besar.

The PAS leadership has said several times in the past month alone that if Khalid has to go, there must be discussions within Pakatan Rakyat as to who should take over. That is a polite way of saying that PAS prefers someone else.

Meanwhile, Khalid is said to be amused by the “circus” surrounding the issue.

“The MB is laughing at the way all these people are jumping up and down, asking him to resign. The way people are making up stories about his resignation is like a circus,” said former Pandan PKR chief Zakaria Rahim.

The pressure on Khalid to go has intensified in the past week. A hoax SMS, claiming that Khalid would call on the Sultan of Selangor on Monday morning to tender his resignation sent everyone, especially the media, into a frenzy.

An English daily was taken in and it published the hoax as a news item, adding to the anticipation. Journa­lists, unsure of which palace the “event” would be held, rushed to both Istana Bukit Kayangan and Istana Mastika. But nothing happened at either palace, and it was only after Khalid personally rubbished the news that everyone calmed down.

Khalid may be amused, but the “circus” isn’t good for any mentri besar. The calls for Khalid to resign have undermined his image and sense of authority.

Everywhere he goes, people look at him and wonder how long he can last and whether the decisions he makes today will still hold water in a month’s time.

Speculation is rife that if he goes, the new mentri besar will renege on the water restructuring agreements that Khalid signed with the federal authorities earlier this year.

Khalid has put on a brave, even defiant, front. He has said he is not resigning, that no one can make him go and that those circulating rumours about him are wasting their time. He also hinted that the Sultan was comfortable with him and that there was no pressure from the Palace where his post was concerned.

No one is sure what he meant by all of that. Khalid has always been an enigma and he is still hard to read, even after all these years. Pakatan is quite famous for calling for votes of no-confidence in Parlia­ment but its leaders are adamant that there will be no such thing in Selangor.

Any action on the mentri besar post, said a key PAS leader, will be by way of consensus.

Dr Wan Azizah is said to be less than keen on the top job and the popular assumption is that if she does not get the job, deputy president Azmin Ali will.

But Azmin may have to vie against another contender. There is now a dark horse in the wings and he is said to be Ijok assemblyman Dr Idris Ahmad, who is acceptable to both Khalid and Dr Wan Azizah.

Meanwhile, the “circus” will be in town for a while more.