Sunday, September 12, 2010

PKR elections 2010 Part I: Will party elections cause a rift?

Posted by: Editorial in Politics

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PKRElections110910The battle lines for the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) election has been drawn with names of heavyweights thrown into the candidacy box for the intriguing Deputy President's post, deemed the main race of the much anticipated party polls.

Unlike in other party elections where the leaders are chosen by a pre-determined number of delegates, the PKR election propagate a complete democratic process with 400,000 members in 218 divisions casting their ballots to decide the leaders.

The casting of votes, to be held from September 17 to November 21, will not only be a closely monitored affair by the whole nation, it will also be of some significance to the Barisan Nasional (BN) as well.

The outcome of the elections is expected to chart the future road map of PKR, since the battle cry and alliance for candidates has already caused a rift that party insiders feel would cause irreparable damage to the party on many fronts.

The Deputy President's post, expected to be a two-horse race between incumbent Vice President Azmin Ali and Supreme Council member Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the Bastions of the party, can cause a split within, since factions have already started to form even before the nomination process started.

Incumbent Deputy President Dr Syed Husin Ali, a veteran politician, has yet to throw his hat into the ring.

Apart from the Deputy President, the election will also see contests for five Vice Presidents and 23 Supreme Council members.

Azmin who has been riding on a wave of support from fellow Members of Parliament, State Assemblymen and Senators, even before announcing his decision to contest, is said to be aligned to PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim while Zaid may have the blessing of Anwar's wife, daughter and Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim who himself has an axe to grind against Azmin.

Five Selangor PKR Assemblymen - Yaakob Sapari (Kota Anggerik), Dr Xavier Jayakumar (Sri Andalas), Shuhaimi Shafie (Sri Muda), Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Seri Setia) and Amirudin Shari (Batu Caves) - announced their endorsement for Azmin.

The five claimed that Azmin deserved the post due to his seniority and the fact that he had gone through many challenges, including family betrayal throughout his political struggle.

"That does not mean we are against Datuk Zaid Ibrahim. We are supporting Azmin because he is also the Selangor PKR Chief," said Yaakob, speaking on behalf of the rest.

The relationship between Khalid and Zaid is no secret as Zaid had initially said that he would not contest if Khalid opts to contest for the number two post.

Being a newcomer, Zaid will have to first grapple with understanding the intricacies of the ‘politics' in PKR while Azmin enjoys phenomenal support from the top bras in PKR, especially so when Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen openly offered their support to him.

Zaid had replaced Azmin as the Federal Territory PKR chief earlier this year, while Azmin had replaced Khalid as the Selangor PKR chief, so the score is even for now.

The fledging party under now ‘defunct' leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has grown from strength to strength with the active involvement of Anwar who played a lead role in the opposition that caused a consummate damage to the pride of the ruling coalition (BN) when it lost five states during the 2008 General Election.

A party insider said an all out battle for the number two post at this point of time was the last thing the party needed, since all the hard work and initiatives put in place after the 2008 General Election may go down the drain, if it leads to a permanent rift.

"If they can close ranks after the elections, it might not be so bad but to be honest, I do not foresee such a possibility. Much will also depend on whom Anwar picks or backs for the number two post.

"Azmin is Anwar's blue eye boy while Zaid, a prominent lawyer who heads the biggest law firm in the country or probably the region, was seen as the obvious number two choice when he first walked through the PKR door after quitting his post as a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department," he said.

He added that despite the odds stacked against Zaid who is also the Kota Baru MP, some veteran leaders in the party do have a compassionate feeling for him due to the age factor.

"Zaid is already 59 now while Azmin is only 46 and has a long way to go. Though Azmin is more senior in the party ranks, Zaid has vast experience as a minister. If he fails in his attempt this time, he may not be able to dream of being the number.

"But even if Azmin loses the contest or gives way to an elder statesman, I am sure it will not be a big loss for him because he has time on his side. Furthermore, he will earn the respect of even the elders in the party," he said.

But the question is, will Azmin swallow his pride and ambition to give way to Zaid and wait for his turn?

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