The end of an era. What now?


Unless the coalition comes up with a concrete solution for its future, Anwar’s sacrifice may come to naught – and the hopes of the rakyat with it.

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

The future of Malaysian politics has been changed, irrevocably so. For years, Pakatan Rakyat de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim has been fighting off a repeat of the nightmare that galvanised the entire Reformasi movement. Now that the gavel is struck and the verdict read out, it seems like we are seeing the end of the political career of Anwar, once Prime Minister-in-Waiting, now figurehead of the opposition revolution. Five years in prison may seem fairly short, but it is an eternity in the realm of politics, not to mention that it disqualifies Anwar from contesting in the next general election.

Many have weighed in on the guilty verdict, noting that all submissions made by the defence team were shot down without regard to any credibility those arguments may have had. Certainly, many questions remain, and it is unlikely that many Malaysians who were holding on to the hope of a change in government will view this case as fair.

One thing is for sure, however, now that Anwar has been declared guilty. There will be an enormous outpouring of sympathy for the veteran politician, maybe enough to push Pakatan Rakyat all the way to Putrajaya in the next general election, as predicted by Anwar himself. The conviction will galvanize the opposition coalition to action, and give its member parties common ground on which to stand on come the next election, and maybe even break through the general unease between the coalition members, especially between DAP and PAS.

However, that leaves us with a vital but essentially unanswered question: who then takes up the mantle of Prime Minister once all is said and done, and the battle is won?

Despite Anwar’s exhortations to the coalition to remain united and keep up the struggle, the fact is that it is hard to imagine the coalition keeping itself together past winning the general election. The issue of leadership is key here, as PAS and DAP will each likely push for it own candidate, though it is entirely possible that the DAP will accede to whomever Anwar passes the baton to. PAS however has been the coalition’s loose cannon of late, going against the Pakatan line and refusing to turn out in support of Anwar during his trial. There are also their hudud ambitions in Kelantan, which has irked the DAP as the secular party has always been opposed to the idea.

Now, Anwar selecting a PAS successor is not within the realm of impossibility, but it is far more likely that he will nominate someone from his own party, perhaps Wan Azizah. Azizah has had her fair share of public complaints of late for her distinct lack of presence in Kajang, and she cannot afford to keep up such a lacklustre performance if she is to lead the opposition coalition to the richest prize in politics. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not Azizah can win a parliamentary seat, even if she does become Pakatan’s candidate.