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Zahid, saviour of Anwar's political career?

The close relationship between the two might make it difficult for success in the proposed plan to topple Anwar in Tambun.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Anwar Ibrahim (right) and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi share a light moment together before an Umno event in 1998.
Anwar Ibrahim (right) and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi share a light moment together before an Umno event in 1998.

Analysts say the close relationship between Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim may save the latter's political career in Tambun, thwarting a proposed understanding among Barisan Nasional (BN), Bersatu and PAS there ahead of the 15th general election (GE15). 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, political analyst Mazlan Ali said the ties between the two leaders were no longer a secret, and had in fact been ongoing since their days together in Umno. 

He said it was entirely possible that this factor would come into play in any decision on future political alliances. 

"They might still be close today, even though Pakatan Harapan (PH) has political differences with Umno," he added. 

On the other hand, he said, their relationship could also lead to an alliance between BN and PKR if none of the political blocs succeed in winning a convincing majority in the Nov 19 polls. 

PAS committee member Zuhdi Marzuki had made the proposal for a three-way cooperation for his party, BN and Bersatu in a bid to end the former deputy prime minister's decades-long political career. 

He suggested that Bersatu's Ahmad Faizal Azumu remain in the running for the seat, while Umno and PAS field candidates in the Hulu Kinta and Manjoi state seats. 

"The biggest obstacle to Anwar's fall in Tambun is the split in the Malay vote – partly for Umno and partly for Bersatu," he said. 

"So the formula to ensure that Anwar is defeated is an electoral alliance among Umno, PAS and Bersatu." 

However, Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said the coalition would field a candidate in the seat to challenge the incumbent, despite the statement from Perak Umno leader Shamsul Anuar Nasarah that Tambun should be Anwar's Waterloo. 

Faizal, the former Perak menteri besar, won the Tambun seat with 38,661 votes, beating BN's candidate Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah (33,341) and PAS' Ibrahim Zakaria (14,948).

According to Mazlan, Zuhdi's suggestion had basis as the seat was a traditional Umno stronghold. 

It was won by PH with only a thin majority of some 5,000 votes at the last general election. 

"Anwar has a reason to be contesting Tambun," he said. 

"This could be his strategy to make Perak the field to gain popular support for PH." 

Mazlan said Anwar had chosen a seat where non-Malays formed 30% of the electorate as he was confident that the Malay vote would be split in several directions. 

If he should fail, however, Anwar is likely to see the end of his political career in Tambun, with any party posts after that only ex officio. 

PH and BN aside, Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) are also expected to contest the seat. 

Mazlan said Anwar might have received information from party research that indicated the possibility of victory despite the risks. 

"Tambun is not a safe seat for PH," he added. 

Independent political analyst Azizi Safar agreed. 

"Anwar is certain to win a lot of support from the non-Malay voters," he said. 

"If there is an electoral pact among PAS, Umno, Bersatu and other parties like GTA, the Malay vote will not be split." 

Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Anwar might still have a chance even if such cooperation materialises. 

"The Tambun seat is considered a balance between suburban and rural, with a Malay majority and a significant number of Chinese voters," he said. 

"If they turn out to vote, the bulk of the Chinese will vote for Anwar. He could still win, even if half of the Malay votes go to a single Malay candidate on the other side."