A crack in Anwar and Azmin’s relationship

It seems that these two politicians, like most divorced Hollywood superpower couples, face irreconcilable differences. 

Philip Golingai, The Star

LAST Sunday, an infographic showing where the 50 PKR MPs purportedly stood in the party’s civil war went viral on the WhatsApp platform. Team Anwar (PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) had 45 MPs while Team Azmin (PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali) had five.

That night at a cafe in Petaling Jaya, I was having coffee with PKR friends who were in the middle leadership of the party. I asked them how accurate was the infographic

“This one is ours, this one, this one, this one, this one has left, this one with us, this one has left, this one is loyal,” said a PKR Supreme Council member, who is with Team Azmin, as he went through the faces of the MPs marked as Team Anwar on the infographic.

The infographic turned out to be propaganda to falsely show that Azmin is losing support. It tried to give the impression that rats were abandoning the sinking Azmin ship torpedoed by a sex tryst video scandal.

The PKR Supreme Council member admitted that after the fractious PKR polls in November, a federal minister and a deputy minister have jumped ship and have joined Team Anwar. But he said it was expected as these leaders are lalang (weeds).

On Tuesday, a new infographic went viral. This time Team Azmin had an extra “MP” – Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz. (Sometimes, I’m amazed by Malaysians’ sense of humour.)

We also discussed the contrasting style of Azmin and the mastermind of the plot to bring down the Economic Affairs Minister who Haziq (since sacked as PKR Santubong Youth Chief) alleged is the man with him in the sex video shot in a hotel on May 11. Azmin is “quiet” while the plotter is “noisy”.

Azmin is trying to keep the noise level of the scandal to a minimum. He is not giving sound bites so that the story will die a natural death. Anyway, Malaysians mudah lupa (quickly forget) and some are getting tired of the scandal’s sordid nature. He is trying to portray that he is all work, focusing on improving the country’s economy.

The nefarious plotter is keeping it noisy through timed exposes, such as the latest video clip allegedly showing the movements of Azmin and Haziq on the 20th floor of the hotel where the video was allegedly made and of youth protesters asking Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to sack Azmin.

“Azmin is quiet. That is his nature. He is meticulous in his thinking. And he makes his moves quietly. When he hits his enemies, they won’t know what hit them. He is a silent ‘killer’,” said the PKR Supreme Council member.

“X (the nefarious plotter) is very noisy. He will make so much noise that you would know that he is coming for you.”

The sex scandal has injured Azmin politically. He is bleeding but it is not a fatal stab, yet.

Will Azmin survive?

It all depends on whether he has the backing of the Prime Minister. So far it looks like Dr Mahathir is standing by his man.

The PKR supreme council member predicted that when things quiet down – say around Hari Raya Haji next month – we might see a new Deputy Prime Minister.

We also discussed how the not-in-the-know public assumed that Azmin is an ungrateful, ambitious politician who has betrayed his political mentor, Anwar, several times to climb the ladder of power.

Like a coin, there is another side to the story. It seems Azmin felt that Anwar had betrayed him three or four times.

I related to my coffee mates what a PKR founding member told me last year when the PKR deputy president race was heating up, and Anwar was seen as supporting Rafizi Ramli against Azmin.

“When Pakatan Rakyat won Selangor in 2008, Azmin should have been the Selangor Mentri Besar. He was the Selangor PKR chief but instead, the party leadership put up Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim who was a nobody back then,” the PKR founding member told me.

“After Pakatan Rakyat won Selangor for the second time in 2013, they again appointed Khalid as Selangor Mentri Besar. Naturally, Azmin should have been the Mentri Besar as he was Selangor PKR chief and deputy president of the party.”

He continued: “When they removed Khalid as MB, instead of putting Azmin in, they first tried with Anwar and then Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as MB candidate. Eventually, Azmin became the Mentri Besar.”

In the PKR polls in 2014 and 2018, the PKR supreme council member said there were attempts to unseat Azmin as party deputy president. In 2014, it was Khalid and Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail trying it and in 2018, it was Rafizi.

From Anwar’s side of the coin, Azmin is seen as defying the party leadership when he “took” the Selangor MB post from the then PKR president Wan Azizah. He also managed to bulldoze his choice of replacement – Amirudin Shari – to replace him instead of the party leadership’s pick, Dr Idris Ahmad. Azmin also managed to get himself appointed to the powerful post of Economic Affairs Minister.

Some describe the decades-long relationship between Anwar and Azmin – which began when the former was Deputy Prime Minister and the latter was his private secretary – as “retak menanti belah” (a crack waiting to split). It seems they, like most divorced Hollywood superpower couples, face irreconcilable differences.

Last Sunday, the big news of the day was that Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi quit his six-month-long garden leave to return as Umno president.

This is a bukan biasa biasa (a Datuk Seri Najib Razak catchphrase which means “not the usual”) manoeuvre. Some read it as a move by Umno leaders aligned with Team Anwar to wrest back control of the party, which has been seen as leaning toward Dr Mahathir under the leadership of Umno Deputy President Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.

From talking to Umno leaders, out of the remaining party 37 MPs, about 10 are with the group that favours Anwar as Prime Minister.

In this Malaysian version of House Of Cards, it is a numbers game. Whoever has the most MPs will rule the country.

Just like that fake infographic on which side the PKR MPs are with, Team Anwar might have fewer MPs than claimed.