The danger of ‘principled frogs’

“The issue in PH is the burden in the form of Anwar Ibrahim. If this ‘burden’ can be removed, then DAP can work effectively.”

Arfa Yunus, New Straits Times

About 20 years ago, PKR made calls for reform in the country’s administrations, both in federal and states, and this sentiment, while not reflected until 2018, was a notion that resonated with Malaysians.

However, it appeared that based on the results of the Melaka polls on Saturday, where PKR lost in all 11 seats it contested, the “Reformasi” party perhaps needed to reform itself.

The PKR wipeout in Melaka has sparked two critical questions: Is party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the right person to lead both PKR and Pakatan Harapan (PH)? And, is DAP willing to suffer the same fate for sticking with an old yet unprofitable ally?

Throughout the 12-day campaigning period in Melaka, the New Straits Times spoke to several PKR leaders and grassroots members.

Although they would usually play down claims of displeasure within the party, the sentiment was different this time around.

Based on the tones of their voices and body language, a simple deduction could be made: They felt a great deal of resentment towards the top leadership.

“I told the leadership I disagreed with the decision to field the ‘frogs’. I will not campaign for them, because it’s not the right thing to do. Don’t ask me why he (Anwar) made that decision because I honestly don’t know what he was thinking. It’s frustrating,” one PKR leader said.

The leader was referring to former Melaka chief minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron and his colleague Datuk Nor Azman Hassan, both originally from Barisan Nasional (BN), who were chosen by Anwar to contest in the state polls under PH’s banner.

Idris and Nor Azman were among the four assemblymen who withdrew their support for the then BN-led administration on Oct 4, triggering Saturday’s state election amid the pandemic. Since then, they have been branded as the “Melaka frogs”.

Since Idris and Nor Azman had left BN, an opponent of PH, Anwar came to the conclusion that the duo were not traitors, but “principled frogs” who wanted to do the right thing.

Despite countless pleas and criticisms from both his allies and detractors, Anwar stuck to his decision that Idris and Nor Azman would contest for PKR and PH. As a result, Idris received merely 31 per cent of the total votes in Asahan, while Nor Azman got 28.3 per cent in Pantai Kundor.

A well-respected party member said: “No one is happy with his (Anwar’s) decision except for a few who are enjoying some perks from him”

Another PKR leader said: “Just wait for the outcome. We will lose and the leadership will blame the machinery. You just wait and see if I’m right or wrong.”

PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli took it to Twitter to tell PH leaders to take lessons from the Melaka polls.

“If the PKR (and) PH leadership (could) learn from these results (and) set aside their egos, God willing, (the results in) GE15 (15th General Election) will be better,” he wrote.

Although PKR had to live with the embarrassing results, PH may still have a fighting chance, thanks to its strongest component party, DAP, which won four state assembly seats in Melaka. Parti Amanah Negara had won one.

With such an outcome, it begs the question: should DAP continue cooperating with PKR?

National Professors Council chairman Professor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin said DAP would be able to work effectively if PH manages to remove its “burden”.

“The problem is not PKR. It has many young leaders with huge potential.

“The issue in PH is the burden in the form of Anwar Ibrahim. If this ‘burden’ can be removed, then DAP can work effectively.

“Anwar needs to take a break and stay out of the picture for the time being.

“Let PKR, through its young leaders, shape the party because it needs to move on from the image that PKR belongs to Anwar rather than the people,” he said.