Will the rumoured Anwar-Zahid pact blow up PKR and PH?

From Ibrahim M Ahmad, Free Malaysia Today

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim can deny them all he wants, but rumours of a secret pact supposedly already sealed with Barisan Nasional chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in the run up to the general election just refuse to go away.

A widening rift with his deputy Rafizi Ramli may be a major factor behind it.

First apparent at the party’s general assembly in July when Rafizi openly criticised Anwar and warned that his popularity was waning, public skirmishes between the two have continued to play out, both behind the scenes as well as out in the open.

The latest episode, no doubt, has centred on Anwar’s decision to replace three-term MP R Sivarasa as candidate for Sungai Buloh in the general election.

Being the gentleman that he is, the former Sungai Buloh MP’s response, reported on Friday, was intended to put the matter to bed. Instead, it revealed more questions which demand answers from the party’s leadership.

Sivarasa issued a statement saying that he had once again been chosen to be Pakatan Harapan’s candidate for the Sungai Buloh seat, and that was so “up until (the previous) Friday morning”, when he was told by Anwar to stand down, apparently for health reasons.

Curiously, health concerns did not appear to be in play even on the preceding day.

On Thursday, Rafizi told the press that the party’s candidate committee had wanted to retain Sivarasa, but that, ultimately, the final decision rested with Anwar.

Nothing was said about Sivarasa’s health, presumably because, as far as Rafizi was concerned, it was not an issue.

Observers say that episode represents a snapshot of the breakdown in relationship between PKR’s top two. Their standoff extends even in respect of the direction PKR and PH intend to take post GE15.

A willingness to make deals

As shown on several occasions in the past, Anwar has always shown a willingness to negotiate an alliance with Zahid.

This was particularly evident at the height of the political instability the country experienced in 2020.

Anwar had at the time announced that he had a “strong, formidable and convincing majority” to claim the country’s top post for himself, having drawn support from Zahid’s faction.

At the time, the Umno president was relentlessly pressuring Ismail’s faction to withdraw support for Muhyiddin Yassin’s government and trigger a general election.

Now that GE15 has arrived, negotiations between Zahid and Anwar appear to be back on track.

How the numbers play out

Zahid’s worry is that BN on its own, with only 42 seats in the previous Dewan Rakyat (Umno: 38, MCA: 2, MIC: 1 and Upko: 1) will struggle to hold on to, let alone improve on, its numbers.

In much the same way, PH would struggle to get to 112 after capturing 90 seats before (DAP: 42, PKR: 36, Amanah: 11, and Upko: 1).

Firstly, the opposition coalition may even struggle to match its 2018 performance.

On top of that, there are not many other options available to either Umno/BN or PKR/PH. Both appear to have burned bridges with Bersatu, PAS and Pejuang.

On its own, PKR/PH will likely have difficulty sealing a pact with the Borneo bloc to secure a simple majority on the floor of the lower house.

An unlikely alliance

That leaves an unlikely alliance between Zahid and Anwar as being their best chance to claim Putrajaya for themselves.

The rumour must have legs, given that Rafizi recently went on record to register his disapproval, but with party members’ loyalty split almost down the middle, he may not be able to stop it.

Sources inside both parties claim that Anwar is set to lead a multi-racial band of elected PKR representatives into a marriage of convenience with BN and the Borneo bloc to form the next government.

They may be silent now, but even DAP may jump on the bandwagon post GE15, with secretary-general Loke Siew Fook previously refusing to discount the possibility, saying “anything is possible in politics”.

‘Insincere DAP’

The alternative for DAP may be much less appealing after an audio clip of a speech Rafizi is alleged to have made went viral recently.

The speaker in the clip claimed that there was “no sincerity” in friendships DAP has fostered with various Malay parties over the years, be they with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (presumably dating back to when he led the now defunct Semangat 46 party), PAS and even PKR.

That insincerity, the speaker claimed, had resulted in “damage to five or six Malay administrations”.

He also claimed that the prevailing view among the Malay community, “which is not wrong”, is that DAP is only interested in riding on the backs of the Malays (“menunggang orang Melayu”, as he put it).

“The Malays prefer MCA, who appear more genuine and do not stab others in the back,” he added.

There can be no doubt that Malaysian politics has descended to its lowest level ever.

A tie-up between Zahid and Anwar post GE15 will leave Rafizi’s faction in limbo and may even lead to the demise of PKR, PH, and even Umno.

It is also likely to lead the nation back to square one, once again led by a government which does not have the rakyat’s mandate.

Malaysians do not deserve that.