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Wan Azizah stepping out of her comfort zone

Publication Date : 25-08-2014


If one had to sum up the sentiments at the PKR annual congress last weekend, it would be that the party rank and file are suffering from political fatigue.

The party faithful are exhausted, some are disillusioned and others are fed up.

And who can blame them? PKR went through a marathon party election that saw flying chairs and upturned ballot boxes while the Selangor chief minister crisis is still not over.

The cracks were evident among those sitting on the stage and also in the empty chairs and subdued mood over the two-day congress.

Many supporters of outgoing chief minister Khalid Ibrahim boycotted the gathering while other supporters who love to throng party meetings stayed away.

The venue at the indoor stadium in Shah Alam featured a beautiful stage with a modern and stylised backdrop but the place was so poorly filled that many of the speeches had that bouncing echo effect.

Some of the leaders who spoke were still going on about capturing Putrajaya and Sarawak where a state election is likely by the end of next year. But most of it was about keeping up the morale.

The first hint that all was not sunshine and everything nice was the absence of PAS top guns at the opening on Saturday.

DAP sent Lim Kit Siang but PAS was represented by its Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, who is not exactly in the party’s big league.

The focus of this year’s congress has been very much about elevating the image of president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and projecting her as the one and only candidate to replace Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor chief minister.

The organisers opened the congress with a touching video on her, lauding her role as a dutiful wife, devoted mother and the party’s leader through the years when her husband was imprisoned.

Her presidential speech this year was also more inwardly looking, with considerable emphasis on Selangor and the problems that had resulted because of Khalid Ibrahim’s thrifty financial management.

Dr Wan Azizah denied that she had contested in Kajang with a view to becoming the next chief minister.

She claimed she was filling a lacuna after the courts denied her husband the chance to be the candidate.

Yet, several of the top party leaders who spoke have openly admitted that the Kajang Move was about changing the chief minister.

For the first time, too, the leaders opened up about how Dr Wan Azizah was picked as the candidate for the post, insisting that it was done according to party procedure. They wanted to quash talk of nepotism and family politics.

It was also the first time that party leaders, including Anwar Ibrahim, publicly acknowledged that deputy president Azmin Ali was the alternative name for the top job. That should help quell the unhappiness among Azmin’s supporters.

Azmin may yet turn out to be the big winner in this messy power struggle.

He has been very circumspect on the chief minister crisis. He has wanted that job for a long time but has refrained from accusing Khalid Ibrahim of this and that in order to chase him out of office.

He was disappointed and angry over the way the “gang of four”, as the key advisers around Anwar are known, have tried to undermine him over the past few months.

He hinted of this when he said that “it is not easy to be the No. 2 as Anwar would know”, alluding to Anwar’s problems when he was Umno deputy president.

But he is trying to consolidate his place in the party and he wants to be seen as a team player.

In his winding-up speech, he reiterated his support for Dr Wan Azizah’s bid to be the next chief minister and heaped praises on Anwar.

The delegates also noticed that Azmin and vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar have grown quite friendly. The pair, seated next to each other on the stage, chatted like old friends throughout the two days.

The former adversaries are on the way to becoming allies. Azmin even announced that he was planning to send Nurul Izzah to visit all the remote villages in Sarawak so that she would be acquainted with the new battleground.

But the ties between Azmin and Dr Wan Azizah are still patchy. During her wrap-up speech, she had wished Azmin, who turned 50 yesterday, “Happy birthday – 50-years-old and, Godwilling, more mature.”

She probably meant well but given their history, it came across as one of those double-edged remarks.

Dr Wan Azizah, 61, seems quite sensitive about what some of the male chauvinists out there are saying about her bid for the chief minister post and how she should stay at home to mind her grandchildren.

She should know by now that the criticism out there is less about her age or gender than the fact that she is seen as a proxy of Anwar. Her impromptu wrap-up speech was all over the place. Minutes into the speech, the sound system blew up again. It had also tripped when new Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad was speaking.

But regardless of how people inside or outside the party feel about her political aspirations, the fact is that her party has chosen her for the job.

She would have many advisers to help her cope and their challenge is not about being more efficient or capable than Khalid Ibrahim.

The challenge is whether they can be as clean and corruption-free as Khalid Ibrahim in managing Selangor’s wealth and resources.

With the party congress over and done with, party leaders can now return to the business of replacing Khalid Ibrahim with Dr Wan Azizah.

Kak Wan, as she known, is preparing to step out of her comfort zone to occupy the hottest seat in Selangor.


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