Monday, December 6, 2021

Anwar’s future dimmer than ever after PKR wipeout in Melaka

The party's debacle in the state election will lead to hard questions about the man who has been its symbol since its inception.

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A long-standing but silent call to replace PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as chairman of Pakatan Harapan (PH) is set to be renewed in the wake of his party’s failure to win a single seat in the newly concluded Melaka state election, according to sources familiar with discussions within the party.

Several PKR leaders and senior activists who had remained with the party since it was booted out of federal power in 2020 also questioned Anwar’s ability to lead the coalition, saying the party would have a “very difficult time” with its partners, especially DAP, in the allocation of multiracial seats at the next general election.

At least two PKR MPs approached by MalaysiaNow refused to comment, with another saying the party’s post-mortem in the coming days “will bring back questions on its leader who has been the party’s image.”

PKR lost in all of the 11 seats it contested despite being allocated more than its partners Amanah and DAP, which won one and four seats respectively.

While some of its worst defeats point to a strong rejection by Malay voters, the party also lost in Machap Jaya.

Machap Jaya is significant as it is the only non-Malay majority seat PKR contested. Seven other non-Malay majority seats were contested by DAP, which won four of them.

“As in the rest of the country, it is already a struggle for PKR to get Chinese-dominated or even multiracial seats, as these are claimed by DAP in every election during talks for seat allocations,” said a former PKR member once involved in seat distributions between PH parties.

“The defeat in Machap Jaya will only strengthen DAP’s argument not to give in to PKR or Amanah when it comes to non-Malay majority seats.”

PKR was formed as Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN) in 1999 by hardcore supporters of Anwar, months after he was sacked by Dr Mahathir Mohamad and later convicted and jailed for sodomy and abuse of power.

The party has since kept to its image as Anwar’s party, with his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and their daughter Nurul Izzah given critical roles.

Calls for Anwar to step down are nothing new.

As recent as August, his failure to gather enough support from opposition MPs to fill the vaccuum left by Muhyiddin Yassin’s resignation had ignited debate on whether he was still relevant.

Prominent social critic Chandra Muzaffar, one of the architects of the reformasi movement, agreed that the outcome of the election would haunt Anwar with questions raised about his role in triggering the election during the pandemic.

“For the last two years, Anwar has been focused mainly on getting the numbers in the Dewan Rakyat to topple the government of the day. Some voters do not like this,” Chandra, who was tasked with drafting the Keadilan constitution at its inception two decades ago, told MalaysiaNow.

He said political stability was a fundamental concern for voters, adding that PKR was punished partly due to its leader’s role in triggering the state election during the pandemic.

“A portion decided to turn against the person who brought down the Melaka state government a few weeks ago. Some BN leaders in fact asked the voters to punish those who caused instability in the state.”

A quick check reveals that in areas contested by PKR, PH came in last among the three major coalitions, getting 16.3% in popular votes behind underdog Perikatan Nasional with 18.7%.

Even its decision to field big names such as former chief minister and ex-Umno man Idris Haron in Asahan, or federal MP and party information chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin in Paya Rumput, failed to deliver seats for PKR.

In Tanjung Bidara, where the percentage of Malay voters is the highest in Melaka, PKR’s Zainal Hassan lost his deposit, obtaining only 489 votes.

Chandra said PKR’s failure to win any seat was also a testament to its continued rejection by the community.

“For many Malay voters, PKR’s collusion with DAP is anathema,” he added.

Meanwhile, a former PKR MP said any post-mortem into its defeat in Melaka could not ignore the party’s central leadership.

“The answers to why we were wiped out in Melaka reside outside the state, and an honest post-mortem will bring out some bitter truths,” he said.

“Some big names have lost. The leadership will have to do some soul searching, maybe ponder on the very core reasons for the party’s formation.”

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