Article from Joceline Tan of The Star
PKR is facing its most happening election since its formation and the high stakes contest between its star Azmin Ali and high-flying lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has taken centrestage.
THE temperature in PKR is rising. The fight for the party’s deputy president post has become the hot topic at the Hari Raya gatherings.
Some people have been all hot under the collar over the accusations and counter-accusations going on between supporters of Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Azmin Ali.
As such, when secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution was hospitalised last week, some thought he had crumpled under the pressure of the party’s first direct elections.
The top man’s preference: Anwar’s legal hurdles will play a big part in determining whether he prefers Azmin (left) or Zaid (right) as the next deputy president.
Saifuddin had been travelling all over the country - Perlis one day, Sabah the next, as he put it - to make preparations for the division meetings which will start in a week’s time.
By the third week of Ramadan, while the blood pressure of others in the party was shooting up, his blood pressure dived and he landed in hospital where doctors said he was also badly dehydrated.
Poor Saifuddin was probably suffering from political fatigue.
PKR is facing its most happening election since its formation in 1999.
This is the first party election based on the one-member-one-vote system and there has been a deluge of nominations for contests at the division level. The supreme council posts are also likely to see a crush of nominations.
But nothing has captured the interest of people inside and outside the party as much as the contest for the deputy president post between Azmin Ali and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
Johari: Supports Azmin because he has gone through hell for the party.
They are two big personalities with tall ambitions, deep pockets and they are claiming the political endorsement of different members of the powerful Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim family.
The intellectuals love to go on about how politics should be about issues and policies. But the reality is that a lot of politics on the ground tends to boil down to personalities and it is no different in PKR.
The fight is very much about the personalities of the two men, their histories and their ties with those around them.
Azmin is being portrayed as a party man, a loyalist not only to Anwar but to the party struggle, someone who has been there from the start of the Reformasi movement.
Said Kedah strongman and Sungai Petani MP Johari Abdul: “He has been through hell and back for the party. They humiliated him, made him produce his two-year-old son in court, they said it was not his child, all not true. How many people would have put up with that? But he never left.
“We’re not saying Zaid is not good. He was a minister; we welcome him but he has never been in opposition politics. We need more time to assess him. Generals must move up the ranks; they cannot command the troops overnight.”
Azmin’s edge is that he has a track record in the party. It is not an unblemished record but it is there, nevertheless.
He has shown that he is a team player and had dutifully pulled out twice from the contest for the No. 2 post before when asked by Anwar.
Saifuddin: Probably suffering from some degree of political fatigue.
Zaid was welcomed into the party like a hero after he quit his minister’s post over the Government’s use of the ISA. It was apparent from day one that he was not there to be a foot soldier for he immediately moved into a role articulating issues that cut across party lines.
He is an intellectual; he thinks on his feet and is very articulate and persuasive no matter how complex an issue. But he is also all too human and his drinking and horse-racing have become political issues.
He is not a hypocrite about his liberal lifestyle and view but unfortunately Malay society can be very judgemental. That is what he is now struggling with.
He is also fighting the perception that he is an over-ambitious parachutist who is aiming to take over the party after barely a year.
Loyalty to the party has never been more crucial given all those people who jumped ship over the last one year. Members are asking: if he can walk out of Umno, what is there to stop him leaving PKR?
Zaid was reportedly livid about the show of force by the MPs and assemblymen aligned to Azmin earlier this week.
The gloves are off
Since then, there has been a blitz of articles running down Azmin in the news portal which is closely tied to Zaid’s interest.
One article titled “Party over in Sabah, Sarawak if Azmin wins” suggests that East Malaysia will abandon PKR if Azmin becomes the No. 2.
A letter that Azmin reportedly wrote to the Selangor Mentri Besar objecting to Zaid as the candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election has also made its way into the portal. Among some of the reasons listed were that Zaid could not be trusted; he drinks and gambles; he is vengeful; his religious credentials are in doubt; and he had sued PAS over the hudud issue.
Anwar’s politician daughter Nurul Izzah has openly aligned herself to Zaid.
“Nurul Izzah is 100% with Zaid, or to put it more accurately, she is 100% against Azmin,” said a party insider.
Insiders said Anwar is uncomfortable with Nurul Izzah’s stand on the No. 2 fight but he is even more concerned that she may go for a vice-president post.
He thinks it is too early for Nurul Izzah to make such a big move and that it may alienate people in the party - father the supreme leader, mother the president and daughter going for vice-president.
The most-asked question is, who does Anwar favour? Is he backing Azmin as claimed or is he is still in two minds whether Syed Husin should let go or stay on another term?
Saifuddin, who has spent some one-to-one time with Anwar in the last few weeks, had asked the PKR leader if he was going to support anyone or any line-up.
“He said he is too old for all this. He said he has seen so much dirty politics after 17 years in Umno that he no longer wants to get involved in this sort of game. I believe he will leave it to the members to decide,” said Saifuddin.
Actually, that is a classic Anwar kind of answer - neither a yes or no, and not even a maybe.
The perception is that Azmin would not be moving so boldly without the blessing of Anwar. Azmin’s relationship with Anwar is such that while he can whisper into Anwar’s ears, he will also do as Anwar says. That is the depth of their relationship.
Azmin’s campaign style is vastly different from that of Zaid’s. He has a lot of people willing to speak up on his behalf and come out in the open to state their support.
Support from the Yang Berhormats has given an important boost to Azmin’s campaign even though the votes will be decided by a wider circle of people.
Zaid’s campaign, for someone of his stature, is rather too much on the defensive with too much play on the underdog status.
His strategy has been to pre-empt issues that the other side may bring up later in the campaign. He is meeting people on the ground but his campaign has been most visible via the Internet.
Even their respective blogs are a world apart.
Azmin’s blog has a very PKR feel about it and his album has photos of him and his wife in Mecca, both of them looking like any other pakcik and makcik from the kampung even though they live in the same posh neighbourhood as Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.
Zaid’s blog is very much about the man of the world that he is. Although Haji Zaid performed his Haj last year, there are no pictures of him in Mecca but there are lots of photos of him and Tok Guru Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.
Both men are presenting their religious credentials in their own way.
Zaid’s blog recently acquired a more contemporary look as he asks his readers to “Follow me as I work towards a better future for the people of Malaysia.”
This is a medium where he can really showcase his intellect and opinions because, in person, he is rather cold and aloof. Zaid has oodles of IQ but seems short of EQ or emotional intelligence.
Fortunately for him, Azmin is not exactly overflowing with EQ either.
The battle between Azmin and Zaid is happening in a big way on the Internet but it will be determined mainly by Selangor, Sabah, Penang and Perak where the bulk of PKR members are located.
The fight will also have a Malay flavour given that 55% of PKR member are Malays. And now that the holy month has given way to festivities, the gloves will come off and the real show is about to start.
Khamis, September 16, 2010
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