PKR polls ‘a sign of waning support’, say analysts

The lacklustre interest among PKR members in its internal polls spells trouble not only for the party, but also Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the opposition as a whole.

(NST) – Observers described the relatively low turnout as “troubling” for PKR in terms of grassroots support, and could be viewed as an indicator of the party’s standing in the next general election.

Senior Fellow at the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Dr Azmi Hassan, said the party’s reformasi (reform) fight and ideology did not jibe well with the current generation of PKR members and supporters, with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim still being its No. 1 figure.

“It’s been two to three decades since (the reformasi days). A lot has changed since then, but PKR has not. The party is still fighting for reformasi. It needs a new ideology, fighting spirit, mantra and leadership. PKR cannot stick to the past. Its younger supporters want something new, which the party cannot offer at this juncture,” he told the New Straits Times recently.

The political analyst said most PKR members might have lost interest in the polls as Anwar was still at the helm.

“PKR members take this as business as usual. But (with Anwar still at the top post) it shows deep-rooted problems in its hierarchy and leadership.

“This was proven in its dismal performances in the state elections in Melaka, Sarawak and Johor.”

He said that even the Rafizi Ramli-Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail battle for the deputy presidency post failed to attract members to cast their ballots.

To the party supporters, he added, it did not matter who took the No. 2 or 3 spot in PKR, since Anwar was still the main leader.

“PKR is synonymous with its president, Anwar. It needs a new plan infused into its leadership if it is to show something positive in the 15th General Election.

“PKR being the dominant party in PH, and PH being the dominant opposition, all this proves that things are not well in the opposition,” said Azmi.

Political analyst Professor Dr Kartini Aboo Talib @ Khalid said a series of failures, ranging from statutory declarations to intentions of becoming the prime minister, had made Anwar a liability to the party.

She said PKR was established based on the “Free Anwar” fight, and when it was accomplished, the party ran out of ideas.

“Whether these issues (low voter turnout and doubts on high membership numbers) are warning signs for PKR are valid questions.

“Every political party self-proclaims that each has significant numbers of members or supporters, but no one can verify whether such a claim is valid.”

Kartini said PKR and the opposition must strategise their moves, and identify everyday issues to attract supporters and regain their trust.

This would include grooming new and credible young leaders and introducing them actively on social media.

“This could be the key to pitching new issues, leaders and projecting compelling images.”

Based on the PKR party elections portal, only 13.7 per cent of the 1,118,423 eligible voters in the party cast their ballots.

Most areas showed only single-digit voter turnouts, with the highest being 38.78 per cent in Pensiangan, Sabah.

PKR strategic communications director Fahmi Fadzil on Saturday said although the voter turnout was around 13 per cent, the number of members who voted increased slightly to 147,000 from 140,000 in 2018.

He was quoted as saying that the turnout should not be viewed solely on the average number of people who cast their votes.

Other factors, he said, included logistics and technical aspects like Internet reach.

Fahmi said another factor for the low voter turnout was that the posts in 65 of the 222 divisions were won uncontested.

He denied that the low voter turnout was due to a boycott by members unhappy with PH’s performance.