The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Pakatan Rakyat

Pakatan Breakup

Tan Jooi Long, The Ant Daily

The void in Pakatan Rakyat left by the loss of two unifying leaders has exposed the Achilles’ heel of the three-party opposition alliance.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim may still be making decisions for PKR from the Sungai Buloh Prison but his role as opposition leader is symbolic at best.

Without his charismatic presence as well as the towering conscience of PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat who died two days after Anwar’s Sodomy II conviction, the PKR/PAS/DAP pact is hanging by a thread.

In GE13, the PR alliance came close to ousting the 58-year-old Umno-led government. However, the ruling coalition clung to power by a lop-sided 60% of the Dewan Rakyat’s 222 seats despite polling only 47% of the popular votes.

“Without Anwar Ibrahim there would be no PR,” according to Bersih’s founder Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan who, however, believes that the alliance can survive the PKR supremo’s incarceration.

Survival means getting past the Islamist PAS’ push for hudud, and its president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s naked ambition to eventually succeed Anwar as opposition leader.

Survival also means looking beyond the Chinese-dominated DAP’s insistence on the restoration of the so-called third vote i.e. elections for local government authorities which were suspended in 1965 and subsequently done away with.

PAS leaders, especially the so-called moderate Erdogans, however, downplay the hudud issue and emphasise co-operation.

“I don’t think that would hinder the pact,” PAS MP Mujahid Yusof Rawa told a recent forum on PR’s future.

PKR MP Tian Chua said the alliance had far bigger problems to worry about.

“Malaysia has not graduated from one-party dictatorship,” he said at the same forum. “The real struggle is moving towards a fully-fledged democracy where a different political party could be in government.”

Human rights also had to be respected, he said, referring to the spate of arrests of opposition leaders, including himself, and government critics under the much-maligned Sedition Act.

“All the other issues are just a diversion in order to derail the real change and because we are debating on false issues, like race and religion,” the PKR vice-president added.

Be it as it may, deep fissures exist within PKR and PAS and among the three parties in the pact.

Last year’s fight between supporters of PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and her deputy Azmin Ali over the plum post of Selangor menteri besar may be resurrected when the time comes to replace Anwar as opposition leader.

While Hadi may covet the post himself and assume the mantle of PM-in-waiting, the combination of PKR/DAP will derail the Islamist party leader’s elevation.

However, PKR will first have to internally decide between Anwar’s wife and his long-time protege Azmin.

If it is to be Wan Azizah, then she will have to be chosen as PKR’s flag-bearer for the Permatang Pauh by-election should her family fail in their request for a royal pardon for her husband.

However, picking her to contest the by-election and, after she is elected, as opposition leader will be a missed opportunity for change.

For better or for worse, the discretion of the Sultan of Selangor in opting for Azmin as menteri besar has given the PKR/PAS/DAP state government a dynamic fresh leadership.

The opposition pact should replicate that same dynamism in choosing a new parliamentary leader when the time comes.

Wan Azizah or, for that matter Hadi or even DAP de facto leader Lim Kit Siang, would not provide the fresh face.

Worse still, any more infighting in PKR and within the three-party alliance would expose more of its underbelly.

Already, the loss of Nik Aziz has weakened the progressive half of the Islamist party.

The moderate Erdogans are not only pro-Anwar but strongly against any cooperation with Umno.

Without the resistance of its virulently anti-Umno spiritual leader, PAS may revisit its ambition of a unity government with Umno, thereby revealing its ugly side.

As it is, Nik Aziz’s untimely death had delayed a meeting of the three parties to decide on Anwar’s successor.

Notwithstanding whether it will eventually be Kit Siang or Hadi or Wan Azizah or even Azmin, the jailed leader will still be a rallying point for the opposition.

As Ambiga said, “there’s a palpable level of disgust of the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim.”

Anwar, she added, is far more dangerous inside than outside. That is for Umno to find out.

Tan Jooi Long resigned as an editor in Bernama to head the Asia Pacific operations of a U.S.-based newswire. He is a prolific tweeter.