KUALA LUMPUR: After Sunday night’s Shared Prosperity Vision Dinner organised by PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali ended, one conclusion can be made: Azmin and party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim are in a state of war.
It is too difficult to see any ray of hope of reconciliation at the moment. Neither side is willing to put aside their egos.
Party members are anticipating a truce between Anwar and Azmin, but can the two PKR top guns compromise? Insiders tell the New Straits Times that the outcome does not look promising.
What started with Azmin feeling hurt at being sidelined by Anwar during the PKR polls last year has turned into resentment over the latter’s failure to fairly acknowledge the former and his supporters’ contributions to the party.
This was evident in Azmin’s speech at Renaissance Hotel, the birthplace of PKR in 1999, where he reminded the audience of his struggles and hard work on the streets all those years.
“But, 20 years later, I am branded a traitor,” he said.
Throughout his speech on Sunday, it would not be wrong to say that Azmin used the event to vent his dissatisfaction.
Phrases such as “walk the talk”, “don’t be hypocritical” and “this party was not built by one man or one family” would not usually be uttered by a deputy to his president unless the former is ready to face the consequences.
One of Azmin’s closest confidants, PKR vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin, announced at the end of her speech at the dinner that they would start a nationwide tour to gather grassroots’ support.
Months into a cold war, it seems now that they are preparing their battle plans before jumping into the combat zone.
There have been rumours on the outcome of the PKR rift. Some say Azmin would be sacked, while others believe the economic affairs minister would form a new party, as hinted by social activist Hishamuddin Rais, who also spoke at the dinner.
Hishamuddin had repeatedly said “PKR perjuangan” (PKR struggle), which was believed to be in reference to the history behind Indonesia’s Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDI-P).
PDI-P is a splinter of PDI, at the time under the helm of president Suharto. Megawati Sukarnoputri, who did not see eye to eye with the president, was forced out of the PDI leadership.
She went on to form PDI-P in 1999 and is still its general chairwoman. To put into perspective how influential PDI-P is, Indonesian President Joko Widodo is a member.
Sources from Anwar’s camp claim that several people have seen the logo of Azmin’s alleged new party, called “PKR-P”, but Azmin said on Saturday he would not back down and leave PKR.
A reporter asked him: “Are you sure you are not quitting?”
Azmin laughed and said: “No way I am quitting. I built this party together (with the others).”
Sources from Azmin’s camp strongly believe Anwar would not sack the Gombak member of parliament, with one source claiming the Port Dickson MP did not have enough support among party leaders to do so.
“Anwar won the presidential post uncontested because party members felt bad and wanted to celebrate him being out of jail. His allies in the leadership were all appointed by him, not elected. So you can see how fragile Anwar’s support actually is,” said the source.
However, Anwar has repeatedly claimed he won the backing of at least 80 per cent of PKR leaders and members, saying this was based on his conversations with grassroots leaders themselves.
Both sides are claiming they have more support than the other. With the PKR elections coming up in 2021, will Azmin challenge Anwar for the president’s post?
That may be on the cards, considering the “nationwide tour” announcement by Zuraida. It is seen as an avenue for Azmin to rally support.
Although that could be the long-term plan of Azmin, the immediate future of the country must be seriously considered by the government because if neither side wants to pull back, the consequences would not only be felt by PKR, but also Pakatan Harapan.
Political analyst Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said PH component parties had no choice but to carry out an “intervention” or the rift could spell trouble for the ruling pact.
“Based on the spirit of togetherness, PH component parties must address the PKR infighting immediately or else it will open up a path for Pas and Umno to use this issue to their advantage.”
While many prefer to play the blame game regarding the PKR internal friction, it should also be seen as democracy flourishing in the “reformasi” party, and to really show this, perhaps the leadership should consider surrendering the right of choice to its grassroots in 2021 without any attempts to delay it.