Dr Wan Azizah not the opposition leader Pakatan needs, but the only it has


(Malay Mail Online) – An inauspicious start to Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s return as federal opposition leader is prompting fresh questions over whether she will be able to reunite a discordant Pakatan Rakyat (PR) on the precipice of disintegration.

Again standing in for the jailed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, long seen as the glue holding together the disparate pact, the PKR president began her new stint with an own goal that few saw coming.

Without prompting, she volunteered that the pact now wracked by infighting will revive the shadow Cabinet that it last tried to form without success in 2008.

The timing could not have been worse, with PAS and DAP openly hostile over hudud, and immediately prompted fresh hostilities between the two warring allies as well as a backtracking on her side.

Centre for Policy Initiatives director Dr Lim Teck Ghee said PR’s abortive shadow Cabinet “must be a big disappointment” to those that want to see the federal opposition put up a more unified and cohesive front on national issues.

“However it is not unexpected in view of the unresolved differences especially relating to religious and other issues.

“While some observers may see this as due to the inability of the opposition leader, Wan Azizah, to demonstrate strong leadership, it is not certain if any other appointed opposition leader can do better in this present situation,” he told Malay Mail Online via e-mail.

Noting concern among PR’s supporters that the pact remained intact largely on political expediency, Lim said a shadow Cabinet would have gone towards allaying such fears.

Political science lecturers Dr Arnold Puyok from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Prof Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia both said Dr Wan Azizah will now face a huge challenge in her efforts to unite the federal opposition pact.

Puyok pointed out that Dr Wan Azizah remains in Anwar’s shadow while Samsul noted that she has none of his charisma that had helped bridge the gap among the three parties, especially between ideological opposites PAS and DAP.

Also, Anwar’s democrat leanings and roots as a Muslim youth leader had allowed him to shift easily between the Islamist PAS and the secular DAP’s worlds.

“Pakatan will face a lot of challenges, the split between PAS and DAP will continue and this will be very hard for Wan Azizah to resolve because she does not have Anwar’s characteristics and this will continue until the elections and if not handled well, this will become worse and it will be Pakatan’s weakness,” Samsul said.

Although the PKR president was federal opposition leader for a brief stint in 2008, she was not the automatic choice this time around.

Her selection was largely forced by the row involving PAS and DAP, essentially precluding leaders from either party from becoming the leader of the pact.

The possible choices from PKR were further whittled down due to disagreements within the party and from its allies, leaving PR with only Dr Wan Azizah as the only person agreeable to all three parties.

Despite the hamstrung selection that left PR with Dr Wan Azizah at its head, Barisan Nasional (BN) is unlikely to be able to capitalise on this and the opening that is her suggestion for a shadow Cabinet.

Unpopular policies such as the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the controversy that continues to surround 1Malaysia Development Bhd meant BN was too far on the defensive, Samsul explained.

“BN has GST problems, it was the top issue in the last two by-elections and this will cause BN to have a problem among the voters.”