PKR’s second shot at Putrajaya with Rafizi leading the charge

Joceline Tan, The Star

DISCONTENT over the outcome of the PKR election is still rippling through the party.

The poll results have yet to be officially validated, although Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim tweeted that the new leadership reflects the idealism of Reformasi.

“They are committed to think things through creatively and intellectually, inspiring courage to confront serious challenges in the service of the rakyat,” said the PKR president.

It was seen as a sort of nod to Rafizi Ramli, the deputy president designate who had campaigned as a man of ideas.

But the photo that accompanied the tweet captured much more attention. Anwar was pictured reading “Disorder,” the book by Helen Thompson that attempts to make sense of the age of crisis we are living in.

The book was actually a gift from Hang Tuah Jaya MP Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar when he called on Anwar at his Jalan Gasing office.

The title of the book was the perfect metaphor of the state of affairs surrounding the PKR president.

The party election has been rife with allegations of vote-tampering and fraud, resulting in some 1,800 complaints being lodged in almost every state.

Three assemblymen from Negeri Sembilan even threatened to quit the party if their complaints were not investigated.

The extent of all these complaints was serious enough for the supreme council which met on Thursday night to order a forensic audit.

The independent digital auditors who briefed the meeting on what they had uncovered so far, have been instructed to do a comprehensive forensic audit and present their findings later this month.

The national congress has also been postponed to next month.

It was quite a tense meeting with some of those aligned to Rafizi objecting to the decision.

PKR is a pioneer in electronic voting which was introduced in its 2018 election. Unfortunately, there are now allegations that the system is susceptible to manipulation.

There were complaints of missing votes and of results that did not tally with the number of people who voted. A common complaint stemmed from Rafizi’s big win over Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, especially in divisions where the division leadership had supported the latter.

For instance, the Sipitang division chief and his team, who won uncontested, had pledged support to Saifuddin. However, division members who voted, gave Rafizi 324 votes and only five votes to Saifuddin.

To some, this reflected the will of the people, to others it was something fishy.

“The young people are with him. Many of us thought Rafizi was only popular outside but my son and two daughters also voted for him.

“My son, who is 24, told me that chances of getting to Putrajaya are better with Rafizi,” said David Cheong, deputy chief of the Kuala Langat division.

Suspicions surrounding the polls were also fuelled by the fact that the results were not tabulated on the spot as in previous elections.

The electronic voting system was to expedite the vote counting, yet the votes were tabulated and made public more than two weeks later.

Chaos would have erupted up and down the country had the Election Commission done this in a general election.

The rationale for the delayed results was to enable a level playing field. The polls were scheduled over two weeks for different states and the party leadership did not want the results to become a campaign issue.

But this came at the expense of transparency and accountability.

“The mood is quite low. We have no issue with Rafizi winning, but there were too many inconsistencies,” said a Selangor leader.

The uncertainty over the election result is a dampener for the party.

The forensic audit may impact the results of some contests but it is unlikely to change the outcome of the deputy presidency which Rafizi won by more than 19,000 votes.

Rafizi, in his thank you message, once again, showed how astute he is in reading the mood out there.

He said that voter sentiment is no longer just about which side is less dirty. He said the electorate will also be evaluating which side is smarter and more capable to be administrators and future ministers.

The voters’ perception of politics has changed and he said the “battle for the best ideas” should be the priority of leaders.

All eyes will be on Rafizi in the coming months

“Our members want to see if he can actually do battle with BN. It is up to Rafizi to translate his idealism into reality and votes,” said party activist Hasmi Hashim.

But the incoming deputy president has to remember who is the boss.

The president has immense power to make appointments to the supreme council and the political bureau where many key decisions are made.

“The president also has the power to appoint the state chairmen who will play a crucial role in the general election campaign,” said Bandar Tun Razak division chief Azman Abidin.

Nurul Izzah Anwar, a staunch ally of Rafizi, is said to be eyeing the secretary-general’s post. But Anwar may reappoint Saifuddin or he could pick Shamsul whose law background will come in handy.

It is normal for the winner to take all in a war but, in politics, there has to be compromise and the top two need to work with each other.

Everyone still remembers the euphoria when then No 2 Datuk Seri Azmin Ali pledged to work closely with Anwar but it went to pieces within a year.

The Anwar-Rafizi honeymoon will hopefully last long enough to carry the party through the general election.