ANALYSIS By JOCELINE TAN
The de facto PKR leader’s hand in the party polls has been evident in the last few days as he turned on his charm as well as used a heavy fist to fine-tune the list of candidates.
PKR politician Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has always had this polished and casual chic kind of look. But the past few days have found him looking harassed and rather out of sorts, as though the world is slowly crumbling around his ears.
He cannot be blamed because he was almost “played out” by three ladies in a private home in Taman Tun Dr Ismail on Thursday.
During the meeting, the three ladies managed to elicit three promises from him: one, he would not contest the PKR No. 1 post; two, he would pull out from the No. 2 post; three, he would instead go for a vice-president post.
The three ladies were none other than PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, her daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar and political secretary to the Selangor Mentri Besar, Faekah Husin, whose petite frame belies her political cables in the party.
Zaid agreed to the proposals because he was told that Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim would also quit the race and that Wan Azizah would persuade the other candidate Mustaffa Kamil Ayob to withdraw.
The idea was to pave the way for a face-off between Nurul Izzah and Azmin Ali. Both mother and daughter have very personal feelings about Azmin and they evidently felt that this would be the moment to take him on.
On Friday, Zaid and Nurul Izzah met again to discuss a joint press conference on Saturday where he would withdraw and she would confirm her candidacy. His only condition was that she should not quit midway.
But the press conference never took place, the three women went incommunicado, calls were not returned and SMSes went unanswered.
Zaid must have felt as if he was in one of those weird twilight zone movies – did the meeting actually take place or had he imagined all of it?
Well, it was definitely for real and when things went all silent on the other side, he dashed off e-mails to all those who had attended, confirming the discussion. Only Nurul Izzah acknowledged the e-mail.
Zaid was totally cheesed off and has since confirmed he is in the race against Azmin and Mustaffa. Khalid is staying out whereas Nurul is going for the vice-president post.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim apparently blew his top and put his foot down on the deal, despite the fact that his wife is his party president and his daughter is an MP in her own right.
Anwar, weighed down as he is by the sodomy trial, has been working behind the scenes to prevent the party elections from getting out of hand.
He is convinced an early general election is in store after Friday’s Budget and he cannot afford any big splits. The party adviser turned on his legendary charm for some, and used a heavy fist on others to avert all-out fights.
Khalid evidently bowed to Anwar’s determination that Azmin should be the next deputy president.
At a private meeting last week, Anwar asked Khalid to concentrate on his duties as Selangor Mentri Besar.
He told Khalid that going for No. 2 did not make sense given that he has to focus on defending Selangor in the next election. He reminded Khalid that it was why he was replaced by Azmin as Selangor PKR chief a few months ago.
The contest for the PKR No. 2 post has had more twists and turns than the East-West Highway. There has also been collateral damage and a PKR-aligned news portal had to publish a long editorial insisting that, “We are nobody’s poodle,” following accusations that its coverage of the PKR polls was one-sided.
The real power lies with Anwar. He let things take its course earlier on but began pressing the control buttons in the days leading to the confirmation of candidates.
He would probably step up his role again when the divisions convene to vote for the supreme council between Oct 29 and Nov 21.
Those who had pressured him to go for No. 1 must be slapping themselves. Why should he, when he has such unlimited and undefined power as the de facto leader?
At the same time, his word is not what it used to be with the new one-man-one-vote system of election.
For instance, Zaid, who defied Anwar so openly, still managed to secure some 40 nominations for the No. 2 post and more than qualified for the No. 1 post.
Rafizi Ramli, Anwar’s calon wahyu for the leadership of Angkatan Muda Keadilan or AMK, did poorly in the nominations race and has pulled out, reportedly on Anwar’s advice.
The AMK fight is now between two street-fighter style politicians – Badrul Hisham Shaharin and incumbent Shamsul Iskander Akin. Although Shamsul has been unremarkable as AMK chief, Anwar is said to prefer him over Badrul who has an independent spirit.
Anwar’s alignment to personalities in the party seems to suggest that this election has more to do with his sodomy trial than the future of the party.
His all-time favourite Azmin is primed to look after Anwar’s personal interest as keenly as he does that of the party. Even Anwar’s approval of Shamsul and Tian Chua is related to their ability to whip up demonstrations which will be useful in his trial.
As for Wan Azizah, who was returned unopposed as president, her loyalty to the party is second only to her loyalty to her husband.
Those contesting the party polls have to realise that they are there not only to take on the Barisan Nasional but also to rise to Anwar’s defence in the sodomy trial.