Anwar Ibrahim’s days are numbered

S Thayaparan, Malaysiakini

“They conclude it was an evil conspiracy to bring down the person in the video, whom they were not able to identify for sure. You can’t be more comical than this.” – Zaid Ibrahim

Where do we begin? We begin by saying that if this country did not criminalise certain types of sexual behaviour, this whole fiasco involving PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy Azmin Ali would be confined to politics as usual, instead of the existential crisis facing PKR and no doubt the Pakatan Harapan government.

Of course this sex video is meant to bring down Azmin. This is politics as usual in Malaysia. What is also standard operating procedure in Malaysia is if you are politically protected, as Azmin is, then all this washes away in a sea of hypocrisy and institutional collusion.

Let us be very clear. The recent statements by the inspector-general of police (IGP) – that the “other” participant in the video cannot be identified but what the state security apparatus has discovered is that there is an “evil conspiracy” by a leader of a political party to bring down Azmin Ali – demonstrates that the fix is in for Anwar Ibrahim.

What the IGP has done is make it clear that he supports the narrative of the Azmin camp and that of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. What he has done is essentially legitimise the narrative that the participants of the tape are not important, or at least the other participant is not important but what is crucial is the “evil” conspiracy to bring down Azmin.

In asking if Azmin should resign if the video is genuine, I defined the context as best I could –“Who is behind the sex video? Is this the internal politics of PKR? Is Bersatu part of the conspiracy? Is Umno part of the conspiracy? We get ridiculous statements coming from the likes of de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who laments that our society is not ashamed of openly admitting sins but this is where the religious police knock down the doors of people looking for sin.”

Look at the prime minster’s bizarre statement when it comes to the alleged Azmin sex video, this nonsense that the crime in question is the alliance behind the circulation of the video, and the muted response to the sex act and participants in question.

Some people may be too young to remember but some of us remember the time when the current prime minister went on prime time on the propaganda organs of the state and graphically described the sex acts allegedly committed by Anwar in the first sodomy case.

In the second sodomy case, various outraged citizens and political operatives formed groups such as the “exterminate all homosexuals” brigade and of course the current prime minister played to his then-Umno base, citing all sorts of malfeasance on the part of Anwar and the opposition.

Of course there is some sort of conspiracy to topple Azmin with circumstantial evidence pointing to the Anwar camp. Of course Mahathir and Azmin loyalists are dredging up the past scandal as blow-back for this conspiracy.

This is what happens when Malay power structures convulse because there is a diffusion of power in the Malay polity. This is why there is always this talk of consolidating Malay power in one political party and the anointment of favorite sons to carry on the Malay supremacist agenda.

The war of words between Azmin and Anwar has been a long time coming. This nonsensical argument put forward that it is merely a difference of opinion is meant to distract from the reality that this is about power. I am one of those skeptics who always believed that the old man maverick was loathe to give up power to Anwar.

Anwar, meanwhile, has made many missteps which furthers the narrative that he cannot be trusted. I always found this argument strange. Does anyone really trust the “Malay” leadership in this country?

Honestly, when it comes to the old maverick and Anwar, at least the latter had the cojones to cobble together an opposition which rattled the Umno regime, winning a couple of states in the process, unlike the former who got handed the keys to the kingdom and now acts as if nothing he did during his tenure contributed to the degradation of Malaysia. This narrative is supported by various factotums, I might add.

PKR vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin says that Anwar should take the first step and that the perpetrators of the conspiracy should be discovered. Notice how nobody cares if the participants in the video are genuine, but rather, that what is required by Azmin’s camp is that the conspirators are unmasked. Now, if Anwar’s camp is behind the conspiracy, what would be the point of him mending this rift?

Look, many people believe that Anwar is more of a symbol rather than a political operative who should lead this country. Members of PKR who I have spoken to harbour no ill will towards Anwar – although they are very unnerved by this sex video – but think that the party’s leadership needs to be with the “younger” faction of the party. And this not only applies to Anwar, but also the old maverick.

The fact is, party discipline is non-existent in PKR. The show of force by those MPs who signed the pro-Azmin statement – no matter how you read the actual statement – demonstrates that that the base in PKR who are not with Anwar are vocal and sizeable.

Meanwhile, Anwar can claim he has the numbers – which again, may be true, but does he really want to test that? This means that a protracted fight within PKR gives the power brokers in Bersatu and whoever else is meddling in PKR’s affairs more room to manoeuvre.

Remember, Azmin really does not have to demonstrate that he has the numbers, but rather, he must create the impression that Anwar does not have the backing of the majority in his party. Indeed, by demonstrating that Anwar has the support of the non-PKR members of Harapan, he is actually doing the far right a favour in this country.

Imagine what the scenario would be if Anwar derived most of his support from DAP? Can you imagine the kind of spin that would put on that and how the far right and mainstream power brokers in this country would run with it ?

What all this demonstrates is that Azmin has the backing of power brokers in Bersatu and the state security apparatus, and is relying on the perception that Anwar is a lame duck prime minister-in-waiting.

Of course, why the Anwar camp might need to do this is also worth considering. The reality is that Anwar is not endorsed by the Malay power structures to lead this country. The Harapan base is divided on his ascension to the highest post in the land. Most Harapan partisans are smitten by the current prime minister, and have forgotten his sins while fixating on Anwar’s.

Who knows if Anwar can survive this politically? If he is unmasked as the mastermind behind this plot, nobody will care if Azmin is the other participant, even though homosexuality is supposed to be against Islamic values.

If this is somehow smoothed out, how on earth could Anwar lead PKR, or for that matter, Harapan when the knives are out in his party and the rest of Harapan are too afraid to pick sides?

All this is a sad end to the political career of Anwar, and worse, a reminder that our public institutions are nether independent nor professional.