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Anwar gets flak for contesting in by-elections

Publication Date : 30-01-2014


Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's shock decision to contest a by-election in Selangor state has raised the ire of the public as well as traditional allies, who see it as a desperate attempt to mollify feuding factions within his party.

The official reason is to strengthen his Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) leadership in Selangor.

But analysts said it appeared to be designed to contain infighting between Selangor Menteri Besar (state chief) Khalid Ibrahim and the Selangor party chief Azmin Ali.

Whatever the reason, analysts said, voters in the Kajang constituency - famous for its satay - feel like they have been taken for a ride.

Influential electoral watchdog group Bersih 2.0, traditionally an opposition ally, declared itself "appalled that a by-election would have to be called and public funds would be unnecessarily wasted because of the whims and fancies of a few".

Anwar has long been portrayed as Malaysia's next prime minister, and his decision to delve into state politics has befuddled observers and offered grist for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).

Sports and Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, a BN lawmaker, joined in the fray on Tuesday, tweeting in jest: "Might as well crown yourself Sultan of Melaka while you're at it."

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who sacked Anwar as his deputy in 1998, scoffed on Wednesday, as reported by Bernama: "If not the big post, even a small one would do, so he can prove that he is prime minister material to the rakyat."

Less than a year after he was elected, PKR's Kajang state assemblyman Lee Chin Cheh resigned abruptly on Monday, giving the cryptic reason that it was to help Pakatan Rakyat, the coalition which PKR is in, to serve the Selangor people better.

By-elections are usually called in cases of serious illness or death. Election laws are silent on assemblymen voluntarily vacating their seats, so rare is the phenomenon.

The Election Commission said it will meet on February 5 to discuss a by-election date, and BN said it will field a candidate.

Khalid is well-liked by the public for improving efficiency and state finances but has failed to gain support with state party members.

Azmin is influential among party grassroots but has been sidelined twice for the Menteri Besar post.

In an online poll conducted on Tuesday by The Star, Khalid trounced his rivals as Menteri Besar of choice.

Out of 2,125 respondents, 43 per cent favoured Mr Khalid as Menteri Besar, with 24 per cent choosing PKR strategist Rafizi Ramli and 21 per cent picking Mr Anwar.

"At the rate they are going, it seems internal politics will continue to be on centre stage even with Anwar's intervention," Dr Faisal Hazis of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak told The Straits Times.

"The party needs a change in its political discourse or else, voters will be jaded and stop supporting them."

Anwar's latest move has left political allies in the opposition Paktan Rakyat divided.

While Parti Islam SeMalaysia's Selangor branch criticised PKR's manoeuvres, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on Wednesday said it would give unconditional support to the party.

"If Anwar Ibrahim's entry into Selangor Pakatan can help play a major role in taking us to a higher level, then Selangor will become an excellent role model for other states to follow," Selangor DAP chief Tony Pua said in a statement.


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