Asia Anwar Ibrahim's party is soul searching ahead of parliamentary elections

Anwar Ibrahim’s party is soul searching ahead of parliamentary elections

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The Keadilan, or PKR, the party of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader and president of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, is set to hold party elections shortly.

This event is becoming a soul-searching time for the once-vibrant opposition party, which has lost its glitz and gloss after winning the 2018 general elections only to break up after a betrayal by a dozen of its MPs in 2020.

Now, Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, who is also an MP, predicts that her party would have a more difficult time in the next general election.

She claims this is due to the public’s loss of faith in the political elite following the 2020 events known as the ‘Sheraton Move.’

She also says the downward trend in voting patterns since 2020 is an indication fewer people are willing to vote despite automatic voter registration and the lowering of the voting age to 18, she said to a local news portal.

During the Sheraton Move, almost a dozen MPs from the Keadilan left the party to form a backdoor government that toppled Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government.

The difficulty for Anwar’s party is that among the defectors are key figures from the opposition leader’s reformasi movement, which he began in 1998.

Azmin Ali, the key defector, was previously Anwar’s blue-eyed lad in charge of party affairs when Anwar was in jail.

Anwar’s return to politics, however, prompted a historic run for the Keadilan and its allies in the PH, DAP, and PAS in 2004. (which has since then left the coalition before 2018 to join Umno in power in 2020).

Another thorn in the side of the opposition is the resurrected Najib Razak with his hit campaign, ‘Bossku’.

He has support from many Malay segments who consider him as either the best Prime Minister for the amount of money he threw at voters during his tenure as PM or as a victim of the PH’s strategy to demonise Umno and its Malay leaders.

Since 2020, Najib’s party has won nearly all by-elections or snap polls held in several states. Previously, the Umno and the PAS had taken seats held by the PH during Mahathir’s brief tenure as Prime Minister.

When the PH seized control, the tide shifted against it. A spate of unsuccessful initiatives and a lack of decorum on the part of certain PH MPs led to its demise and replacement by the Muhyiddin Yassin administration, which eventually fell apart more than a year later.

Najib is regarded as the master political figure who, while in the backseat (he could not retake the PM post at the time due to several court cases against him), ran down the PH government and helped to rally the BN and PAS, as well as Muhyiddin’s Bersatu and Azmin Ali’s defectors, to form the new government in 2020.

Following the upheaval, the Keadilan now has the opportunity to rehabilitate its image and bring some of its high-profile people to the forefront.

The party is witnessing a slew of operations that were unnoticed during the lockdowns, as well as some heated battles for vice president positions.

Once a popular figure in the Keadilan, Rafizi Ramli abandoned politics, “to fight court cases” he says.

He is now back and is competing for the post of deputy leader.

Against him is Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, the PKR secretary-general, who has presented himself for the party’s deputy presidency, promising to help PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and fulfil his position as a “team player.”

After Rafizi Ramli and Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak, he is the third individual to register his candidacy for the role.

The party has reached a forked route. In his capacity as the party’s deputy leader, Saifuddin proposes ‘diplomacy.’

He claims that the political environment in Malaysia has altered significantly since 2018 and that the party would need allies if it is to win the next general election.

Rafizi, on the other hand, is opposed to any ties with Umno or the Perikatan Nasional, where his rival Azmin is a powerful figure.

There have been several clashes in the Keadilan between Rafizi and Azmin, notably over the party’s top positions.

However, the party still faces an uphill struggle in the eyes of the general public. How can the Keadilan instil faith in its MPs if it cannot manage them and they are prone to clacking the doors?

Will the party swing to the right, toward the Malay voter base? It is currently seen as a party that does not place a premium on Malay voters and instead seeks votes from people of all races.

Mahathir is probably correct in asserting that the Keadilan is not a Malay party, despite the fact that it is led by a Malay. This is most likely due to the party’s lack of a pro-Malay agenda, which might be crucial in future elections.

Nonetheless, we feel it is the PH’s performance in power that has really harmed the Keadilan.

Can party figures like Rafizi and Saifuddin aid in the healing of this wound? That is the query.

The tough part in these party polls and for party supporters is that Nurul Izzah will not be contesting in the race for PKR’s top six positions.

The former PKR vice president who resigned from her post in December 2018 says in a Facebook post that she will focus on efforts to woo voters who are still on the fence ahead of the 15th general election.

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