Debate over the Chosen One

The PKR shock and awe in proclaiming Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister candidate has been the talk of political circles, but how will the husband-and-wife package go down with voters? 

Joceline Tan, The Star

THE longest serving James Bond, Roger Moore, died on Tuesday at the ripe old age of 89.

Moore was arguably the greatest 007 in the James Bond movie franchise but his final Bond movie, A View To A Kill, was not his best and he lost his licence to kill after that.

But Malaysia’s very own James Bond a.k.a. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is still going strong, crisscrossing the country with a view to kill off Barisan Nasional in the general election.

Dr Mahathir, 92, has always held the metaphorical licence to kill by virtue of his stature as Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister.

The next general election will be the Malaysian Mr Bond’s do-or-die bid to topple Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. If he fails, he may have to hang up his gun for good.

He has pulled out almost everything he has got but he has yet to produce that proverbial silver bullet.

He has swallowed his pride to seek the cooperation of his former nemesis Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and work alongside another former enemy Lim Kit Siang.

Anwar told a die-hard supporter from Terengganu that he had forgiven Dr Mahathir.

“Anwar told a few of us: ‘He is already old, let him (Mahathir) answer to God.’ But among us, we cannot forgive,” said the Anwar loyalist.

Last weekend, he sat through the Anwar mania at the PKR congress where he suffered a brush-off of sorts. The delegates waved placards with the slogan, “Anwar PM Ke7”, while one delegate after another drummed home the message that Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail would be the interim prime minister.

Actually, if Pakatan does win the general election, the 7th prime minister will be Dr Wan Azizah while Anwar will be the 8th prime minister but they also did not let the facts get in the way.

Declaring Anwar as the prime minister candidate was PKR’s way of telling the Parti Pribumi chairman that the top job belongs to PKR. It was no surprise that Parti Pribumi president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin did not join the crowd in hoisting the Anwar-for-PM placard – Muhyiddin is a contender for the post.

In the 2013 general election, Anwar was the only candidate – no one else in Pakatan Rakyat came close to his experience in government or charisma.

But Anwar is in jail and there are now more than a few personalities in Pakatan who have experience in a state or federal government and who have their own spheres of influence, hence, the scramble for the post.

Anwar is PKR’s chosen one but he is no longer the only one in Pakatan and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who had advocated Dr Mahathir for the job, let go another of his no-holds-barred blog posting.

Zaid is the thinking man’s politician and he was not impressed by PKR’s shock and awe proclamation. He also did not appreciate what he saw as disrespect for Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin.

But the thing is that the Pakatan parties – PKR, DAP and Amanah – have been quite consistent in backing Anwar and Dr Wan Azizah for the post. They see Anwar as someone with a track record and who can manage the Malay ground. They find it ridiculous that the party with only one MP wants the prime minister’s job.

“The Mahathir group is still new in the Opposition, there are still doubts about them. In the absence of a clear-cut candidate, Anwar fits the bill. He is the embodiment of what Pakatan wants to be,” said a Pakatan politician.

It is also quite natural for them to regard their new partner’s ambition with caution and suspicion.

Dr Wan Azizah has said that she has no problems being the “seat-warmer” until her husband is freed.

But the pertinent question is how the husband-and-wife package will go down with voters.

Will the urban-based voters, especially the Chinese who form the bedrock of Pakatan support, accept Dr Wan Azizah as the interim prime minister? Is the conservative Malay ground ready for a woman prime minister given that she could not get past the palace door to become the Mentri Besar of Selangor?

Will they buy the script that if Pakatan wins, the King will pardon Anwar who will then contest a by-election and take over from his wife?

The answer is blowing in the wind. A common remark from PKR leaders during last weekend’s congress was that they are not sure of the sentiments of voters this time around.

A few days after the congress, a survey by Invoke, an NGO run by PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli, revealed that among the Pakatan leaders, Anwar was indeed the Chosen One.

Anwar polled 23.5%, followed by Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (17.6%), Dr Mahathir (16.5%), Muhyiddin (12.6%), Rafizi (10.7%), Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir (8.4%), Dr Wan Azizah (4.5%), Datuk Seri Azmin Ali (3.5%) and Nurul Izzah Anwar (2.6%).

Rafizi had created quite a buzz. But the survey actually presented a total of 10 names including that of Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The awkward part was that when the polls are tabulated based on the 10 names, Najib came out on top with 31% of the votes, followed by Anwar (8.1%), Hadi (6.1%), Dr Mahathir (5.7%), Muhyiddin (4.4%) and the rest trailing at below 4%.

It was quite problematic for Pakatan, knowing that Najib is still ahead of them.

It was also not easy for Dr Mahathir to swallow and he brushed off the Invoke survey as “syiok sendiri” or self-glorification.

Dr Mahathir had tried to put Muhyiddin’s name up there as early as last year but now he said there was no point naming the prime minister if the coalition could not win the general election.

The Invoke survey came out on Wednesday. By Friday, it was swimming in criticism on the result of the survey, the methodology used and even the fact that Rafizi had included himself in the list of names.

A day later, a pro-Pakatan news portal jumped into the fray, claiming that its online poll showed that almost 70% of their readers want Dr Mahathir as prime minister.

Surveys can be very sensitive things especially to those who do not come out well in the polling. Some in PKR felt that the survey was counter-productive and had put the party in a poor light.

Zaid and Rafizi got into a social media row over the prime minister issue and it was quite a well-matched argument between two intelligent and opinionated persons.

The pro-Azmin camp suspects that the Invoke survey was to show that Rafizi was more popular than Azmin.

Ammirul Azahar, the head of a PKR branch in Gombak where Azmin is the division chief, was annoyed and amused at the same time.

Ammirul decided to have his own online poll to choose the prime minister candidate except that it was a tongue-in-cheek race between Rafizi and Fattah Amin, the handsome award-winning actor.

Looks triumphed over brains and Fattah won with 64% of the votes. It was a playful attempt to show that online polls cannot be taken too seriously.

The politicking over the prime minister post is not only about who will get the job, it is also a tussle for dominance in the coalition.

The trickiest part is coming up next – the negotiation for seats in Pakatan. There will be seats to fight over now that PAS is out of the coalition and Amanah and Parti Pribumi has come into the picture.

Everyone wants a winnable seat and the party laying claim to the top post will have the edge at the negotiation table.

Dr Mahathir has said several times that he is not interested in being prime minister again. His interest lies in advising the prime minister.

He seems to be up against a roadblock on the prime minister issue but that does not mean he has given up trying to get the job for Parti Pribumi. Like the real 007, he will find a way around it.

The real 007 went from escaping death-defying situations and seducing beautiful women to doing charity work after he retired as a movie star.

Malaysia’s Mr Bond, on the other hand, never really retired. He said recently that the secret to his good health lies in the fact that he does not smoke or consume alcohol. He also does not believe in over-eating and always stops before he feels full and he reads to keep his mind active.

The 007 movies always end with Mr Bond winning and surviving even though it always seemed like he was in danger of ending up like a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken. There was always a happy ending for the hero.

But it is still unclear how the movie starring the Malaysian Mr Bond will end. And that makes it all the more thrilling.