SHAH ALAM, Aug 25, 2014:
The conclusion of the 10th PKR National Congress yesterday marked the end of another shadow boxing round between PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and deputy president Mohamad Azmin Ali.
It is presumably the longest party polls in the world as it took five months to be concluded recently. The party claims to have 500,000 members.
In comparison, one of the world’s two largest democracies, India, with 814 million eligible voters took only five months to hold its elections. Indonesia, with 187 million eligible voters, took 15 days.
Despite the delay in final results, amid allegations of vote tampering and violence at polling stations, members seem to have swung to Azmin, but only just. Despite that, the polls have seen the party’s faction in a deadlock.
PKR party poll results
The election results, despite being fairly mixed, saw many candidates belonging to Azmin’s camp winning big and dominating important posts in the party.
In the party’s new central committee line-up, at least 13 of the 20 members elected belong to Azmin’s camp.
According to sources within the party, those aligned to the Anwar camp include Bukit Lanjan assemblyman Elizabeth Wong, Christina Liew, N. Ravi, Siti Aishah Shaik Ismail, and party treasurer-general William Leong.
Alor Star MP Gooi Hsiao Leung and pro-Pakatan non-governmental organisation (NGO) Jingga 13 leader Fariz Musa are perceived as divided and fair supporters of both camps.
The overwhelming sweep was led by Azmin-backed Latheefa Koya, who finished at the top with a whopping 23,119 votes. This could clearly see party policy making decisions swing Azmin’s way.
In the PKR Youth wing, Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad pipped his fellow Batu Caves assemblyman Aminuddin Shaari by 250 votes.
Amid the controversy over the win, Nik Nazmi, who is aligned to Anwar’s camp, had his faction nearly decimated by Azmin’s man, Aminuddin and his camp, in the polls.
Save for four of his camp being elected to the PKR Youth central committee, the remaining line-up, including his deputy Dr Afif Bahardin, three vice-presidents and 15 of the central committee members belong to Azmin’s camp, with the exception of one member belonging to a third faction.
It is learnt that this has entrapped Nik Nazmi. On Friday, during the PKR Youth Congress, the opposing line-up had walked out of the stage just before he was about to give his speech.
Although he has amended his ties with his line-up yesterday, it is learnt that if two-thirds of the line-up vote a motion of no confidence in his leadership, a re-election of the PKR Youth division could be called.
This makes Nik Nazmi ineffective in asserting his new-found role in the party.
The PKR Women’s wing also saw the domination of Azmin’s faction, with long-time ally Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin retaining her post as chief.
The real power play
However, PKR’s top line-up was utterly dominated by the Anwar’s camp.
Besides his wife, party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and daughter, vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, Anwar has his trusted lieutenants in Batu MP and PKR vice-presidents Tian Chua and Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli.
Several delegates at PKR Congress had expressed disgust when Rafizi had defended Anwar and his family, telling the disgruntled to leave if they had lost confidence in the leadership.
Likening the family’s struggle in the party to India’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, Rafizi had fired a pot-shot at the PKR Youth central committee members who had rebelled against Nik Nazmi earlier, according to one delegate.
“What’s new? He is Anwar’s blue-eyed boy after all,” the delegate said, asking not to be named.
During his speech at the party’s national congress, Rafizi had claimed that the term “Istana Bukit Segambut”, a reference to Anwar’s home, had come from within the party.
The delegate said that if Anwar had not turned the entire Selangor Menteri Besar saga and “Kajang Move” into a family affair, the name-calling perhaps would not have occurred.
When asked to comment on Rafizi’s call for detractors to challenge Anwar and his family members by democratic means through elections, the delegate laughed, saying when the de facto leader’s post was beyond challenge and not put through a contest, this was impossible.
However, the real power play is in the party’s political bureau meetings.
The very meetings that decided the nomination of Wan Azizah to replace embattled and now independent Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim remains key to either Anwar or Azmin in determining the party’s direction in the future.
The political bureau consists of Anwar, Wan Azizah, Nurul Izzah, Tian Chua and Rafizi, along with party secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, treasurer-general William Leong and several invited members from the central leadership committee.
With only Zuraida and Bukit Katil MP Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin on the other camp, the inclusion of two vice-presidents, who are nominated to the post as well as the change of guard in the secretary-general and treasurer-general line-up, could be a game changer for Azmin.
However, following the conclusion of the PKR National Congress yesterday, PKR’s election director Datuk Johari Abdul said that new names would be announced soon.
Any decision to nominate the two extra vice-presidents and maintaining both Saifuddin and Leong lies in the hands of the party president, leaving Azmin’s hand far from the cards.
It is learnt from sources within the party’s leadership circles that Wan Azizah may elect a surprise candidate in long-time Anwar ally Datuk Seri Edmund Santhara to fill the vice-president’s post.
The former CEO of Masterskill Education Group Bhd is known to be an ally and a good friend of Anwar.
While he has in the past stated his neutrality between Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional, having contested as an independent in the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat during the last general election, sources said that Santhara’s impending appointment was due to him being a potential cash cow for the financially-strained party.
The PKR Congress held at the Stadium Melawati was in absolute mediocre fashion.
The empty seats along the delegates’ section as well as a lack of electricity in the stadium forced the organisers to install a large electric generator, courtesy of Kota Anggerik assemblyman Yaakob Sapari.
Twice, during Wan Azizah’s closing speech, power cuts occurred, disrupting her speech.
In addition, members of the media were not provided Internet connectivity or sufficient power sources.
All these show signs of a lack of finances within the party, as admitted by Leong during his speech yesterday.
The current struggle for the coveted Selangor Menteri Besar’s post and the aftermath of the troublesome party polls had indeed affected the mood of the delegates at yesterday’s congress.
A solution to the state’s woes will depend on the approval of the Sultan of Selangor, possibly today, for Wan Azizah to helm the top job.
It would be down to Anwar and Azmin to salvage the party in its quest to capture Putrajaya at the next general election.
While Azmin has gone along with the decisions of his mentor, Anwar, it cannot be dismissed that his influence within the party continues to grow.
Should the situation arise, perhaps there will be a time when Azmin may really box Anwar out of the party.