Has Azmin been making his moves to be free of Anwar and DAP?

umar mukhtar

Umar Mukhtar

Azmin’s characteristic political demeanour of stoic patience and disguised ambitions is now under threat of erosion. President Wan Azizah Ismail’s initiative of forming a task force to investigate PKR’s performance in the recent Sarawak PRN by appointing only the president’s men to be on it is a message from the president that enough is enough of Azmin’s perceived insubordination. It is the beginning of open warfare of what has been an uneasy relationship.

The animosity between the two has been there for a very long time. From the time when Azmin’s wife was wildly alleged to be the lover of Anwar Ibrahim, Wan Azizah’s husband to the time of Azmin’s wily manoeuvres to end up being appointed Selangor Menteri Besar in Wan Azizah’s place. In spite of all those, both have behaved politically correct. But now the dam is in danger of bursting. The pressure is more of Azmin creation in order to force an issue than anybody else’s.

From Azmin’s speech confessing his unabashed adulation of his guest of honour Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar’s nemesis, at his daughter’s wedding reception which Wan Azizah failed to attend, to the recent debacle in Pakatan Harapan cooperation in the Sarawak PRN, Azmin’s behaviour seems to be calculated attempts at ruffling’s PKR’s feathers. They were more of necessity to prop up Azmin’s political career than random delinquent acts of insubordination.

Consider this: The animosity between Azmin’s two warring wives in the Selangor state government, PAS and DAP, will soon come to a head before PRU14. Azmin may end up the loser, as he needs both their electoral support in Selangor and losing either one is disastrous. It is about time the PKR leadership acts on this anomaly. But Wan Azizah said that PKR is already a member of Pakatan Harapan, which includes PAS rebels’ flagship of Parti Amanah Negara.

Where does that leave Azmin who needs to curry favour with PAS? Wan Azizah probably hasn’t forgotten PAS’ objection to her being the Selangor Menteri Besar. She has not lifted a finger to help solve Azmin’s predicament. So in order to prolong his importance, Azmin either has to act on his own as an overpowering deputy president or else take over the party leadership whichever way. The Sarawak PRN was his opportunity to test the waters.

He gave permission for Sarawak PKR to compete with PH partner DAP in six overlapping constituencies. According to Azmin he had Wan Azizah’s permission to decide. That has been disputed by the other faction. It was a three-pronged move. One, it made PKR Sarawak indebted to him, two, he signalled to PAS that he is not in DAP’s pockets and three, he would find out the leeway he has in running circles around the proxy president.

Then immediately after the PRN, instead of expressing regret at the three-cornered fights, he ignored the incidents like they never happened and instead invited PAS to join PH without first getting the nod from the partners of the coalition. How insolent was that! Enough is enough. Wan Azizah just had to act. So at the behest of the jailed KETUM, Wan Azizah formed the task force comprising her men as if to warn Azmin she is ready to strangle him.

The co-heads of the party’s elections bureau, Saifuddin Nasution and Nurul Izzah Anwar had been effectively rendered impotent by Azmin. Not that it mattered. PKR’s philosophy of participating in elections is like participating in the lottery. You have to buy a ticket for a chance to win. So run in as many constituencies as possible, almost like spreading the odds. Hence, 40 over seats to win three. Who knows, the tsunami might hit again?

Azmin now knows his limits and he will review his options. Whatever he does, he needs to carry along those PKR leaders and elected representatives who are beholden to him, to wrest the party leadership or to split. It is uncanny that he has many supporters in PAS and Mahathir’s faction of UMNO, and also many detractors in DAP and in his own party. He has paved the way with his tricky politics; now it’s execution time.

The likes of Rafizi Ramli, Johari Abdul, Saifuddin Nasution, Nurul Izzah would like to see the back of him, so that they can run rampant in the dying party with an ineffective president and a jailed KETUM. The rest will just wait and see and jump to the winning side. And Azmin actually does not have a choice, kill or be killed. He is a Menteri Besar with all the trappings, such that he knows that this is the best time to make his move. Every man for himself.

So a prospective Azmin’s Selangor state government comprising PKR ADUNs loyal to him, PAS and Barisan Nasional is not totally inconceivable. He probably calculated that the above formula is a better bet than the present sham in the long run. Does he have to join PAS or UMNO? No, he’ll wait first to see whether his ‘Bapa Angkat’ Mahathir manages to take UMNO away from Prime Minister Najib Razak.

He still is with the Deklarasi Rakyat crowd even though KETUM has disavowed it for not including his release as its top priority. Azmin is the first person to know that PKR is merely Anwar’s vehicle to be the PM. Any act that demonstrates that it is instead a regular political party for the people’s well-being and not a personal vehicle will be severely opposed by Anwar’s family. That is why it is not half as effective as the party it used to be, now that the driver is jailed.

Azmin does not have a do-nothing option unless he is willing to go through umpteen more years as ‘khadam’ to a man who is KETUM for life. And run the risk that it will be too late to chart his own burning ambitions despite the calm demeanour.