This is what happens when you run a political party from behind bars

umar mukhtar

Umar Mukhtar

Who actually runs PKR? Not proxy President Dr. Wan Azizah Ismail whose personal political acumen does not exceed her skills at fanning herself at photo opportunities. Not her estranged deputy Azmin Ali who is preoccupied with manoeuvres on how to remain the Selangor Menteri Besar. Not Anwar Ibrahim because, outwardly, he is in jail with restricted access to his supporters.

But to those who know PKR intimately, they understand that PKR first and foremost is Anwar’s party. So it is no mystery regarding how the party is run. Not by ideology — it has none. Not by leadership structure — all that have been elected are technically beholden to Anwar’s memories. And not by feeling the heartbeats of the people — how much can you feel from behind bars.

Right now, it’s simply how to get Anwar out of jail — that is the party’s top priority. So all party moves are adapted to conform to that. When it appeared that the fledgling “Citizens’ Declaration” was Anwar-friendly, PKR through Azmin, was enthusiastically supporting it, with the party’s hope that Anwar’s release is the most important part of the ‘reforms’ they champion.

Then Anwar was told it was not and that the group’s modus operandi is basically dependant on elite manoeuvrings. Anwar purportedly used his distaste for the latter to direct his wife not to join the grouping. He is just not used to being not top priority. In fact, from the decision of the group, it is now obvious that Anwar is no longer the opposition’s cause celebre.

See how things are decided? No policy-making meetings, no in-depth research on party members’ sentiments. Only by the seat of Anwar’s prison pants. And even then it is further simplified by the question, can Anwar be released by this move? So this means no forgiving of ex-PM Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s excesses of jailing people without trial, much to party elder ex-ISA detainee Syed Husin Ali’s relief. He is probably wondering why he supported PKR in the first place. He spent eight years locked up and eight years forgiving Mahathir?

Where does this decision leave Azmin? He wants to be parley-parley with ex-dictator Mahathir who is the de facto leader of the group? In case they succeed and need a PM, he would be available. Or so he hopes. Then there’s his love-hate relationship with DAP whom he depends on to continue being the MB. He can’t abandon them to the jaws of the monster.

Can PKR be run by mere adherence to that ‘kiblat’? Azmin will have to leave Anwar for his political career to progress. It is a matter of time. And Azmin has the members’ support. The bulk of the policy-making body MPT is made up of Azmin’s men. And the restless grassroots are beginning to be unsure of their loyalty to Anwar. His bland proxy, Wan Azizah, just hasn’t got what it takes to counter Azmin’s patronage as Selangor’s MB and active political mind.

Can Azmin hijack PKR? Easy. He wins hands down if he faces Wan Azizah in a presidential contest. The last time he was threatening to do that Anwar had to intercede by supposedly running himself. Then he withdrew when Azmin confirmed on running as Deputy President instead. How cartoonic was that? The threat is still there unless Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah gets out of her matrimonial dilemma and concentrate 100% on being a politician.

So PKR is in prison too, having not sodomised anybody though. How much can Anwar feel the pulse of the people first-hand from behind bars? It is not as if he has a smart phone where he can read the social media like the last time he was in Sungai Buloh. Or has he? But having ‘his boy’ as the minister in charge of prisons brings possibilities. That sums up Anwar’s life – possibilities. It might just work so Anwarinas will feed on that too – possibilities.

Azmin is aware of his predicament. But he is good with maintaining his poker face and keeping his cards close to his chest. Wan Azizah will only have her Japanese fan to convince PKR that she, too, has something up her sleeves. The rest of ‘the spokes in the wheel’ will just have to ‘kayoh, Mat, kayoh’. After seventeen years yesterday, PKR is still a ‘convict’.

Anwar meanwhile keep glamourising his life beyond his prison garbs to the red carpet treatment he was given in Washington D.C. in his previous life. That was a high point in his political career. Oops, that hurts.