KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 ― PKR and by extension Pakatan Harapan (PH) as a ruling coalition, cannot move forward as long as there is still bad blood between its two top leaders, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, analysts have said.
Pundits believe that the conflict between the two has been dormant for years but rising to public attention on instances such as last year's fractious PKR party election, as well as the latest sex video scandal targeting Azmin.
They also claim that there is unlikely to be a future in the country's politics where Anwar becomes prime minister and Azmin stays on as his loyal PKR deputy president, and that further infighting will possibly damage the party as well as PH ― unless one yields and gives way to the other.
“For now, it is impossible for both Anwar and Azmin to steer PKR harmoniously, the crisis between them is too dire. PKR is heading for a split, either in the nearest future or at the very latest during the party's 2021 congress,” Mohd Yusri Ibrahim, head researcher of think-tank Ilham Centre told Malay Mail when contacted.
History of bad blood
Mohd Yusri said the feud between Anwar and Azmin manifested during PKR's internal election last year when the Port Dickson MP ― who won the presidency without contest ― openly endorsed Rafizi Ramli for the deputy presidency.
Back then, despite Rafizi losing the race, Anwar appointed him as vice-president and a host of other members into PKR's central leadership council and state leadership.
These were decisions which did not take into account Azmin's views, and that exacerbated the conflict further.
“And now with the sex video issue, Azmin has received the biggest hit in his political career. Through strained their ties may be, he had hoped that Anwar would support him like he did Anwar in the sodomy conspiracies in the past.
“But when Anwar is seen as not supporting him and even taking advantage to attack him in the video issue, the crisis between Azmin-Anwar has now reached its peak, and cannot be saved or salvaged,” Mohd Yusri added.
He warned that a split within PKR will affect PH as the party is the pact's lynchpin, and has the biggest majority in the Dewan Rakyat.
But independent political analyst Hoo Ke Ping says that the split between Anwar and Azmin has gone on for longer than that, and that both have been fighting with one another as far back as 2014, during PKR's infamous “Kajang move”, which triggered a crisis after the party orchestrated the removal of Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor mentri besar.
Hoo said that Anwar's faction within PKR had wanted to stop Azmin from taking over as MB back then, but failed to do so.
“Back then, they, Anwar and his family, wanted to get rid of him already. The party has been split all these years, Anwar cannot control all his members, MPs.
“As it is now, Azmin must go, he needs a multiracial party to join, whether it’s Gerakan or Bersatu, it remains to be seen,” he told Malay Mail.
Azmin's closest associates have repeatedly denied rumours of him leaving the party.
Mohd Yusri believes there is a plan to delay Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's handing over of PM duties to Anwar in the near future, and that Azmin's recent remarks confirm this.
Last Monday, Azmin called for Dr Mahathir to serve out his full term as prime minister, despite repeated calls by Anwar and PKR leaders for a proper succession plan before the first five years of this administration's rule.
“If Tun hands over the leadership reins to Anwar before PKR's party election in 2021, I do not foresee the Azmin-Anwar conflict ending. If Anwar becomes PM, I foresee Azmin and his followers leaving PKR, either joining parties within PH or Opposition or independent parties, or even forming a new one,” Mohd Yusri said.
And by keeping Dr Mahathir as PM for an entire term, Mohd Yusri says this will enable Azmin to challenge Anwar for the PKR presidency come 2021.
Should Anwar be defeated in the PKR election, then the issue of him becoming PM will no longer be relevant, leaving Azmin as the only viable candidate.
“This is the gamble that Azmin is taking via his support for Tun to remain as PM until the end of the term.”
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun shared the same view, saying that the only way for a resolution would be for either Anwar or Azmin to “totally incapacitate the other to prevent future subversion”.
Oh says that the onus is now on Dr Mahathir to put an end to the conflict between Anwar and Azmin, and who he hands over the PM post to.
“For Anwar, who will most likely be sidelined, cannot command anymore the kind of support as with two decades ago to mount a meaningful Opposition to Azmin who is most likely to take over from the old man,” he told Malay Mail.
Political analyst Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia said that PKR should call for an extraordinary general meeting and decide who they want leading the party by a vote.
“That might help to close rank and bring back together those who are divided between these two leaders,” he told Malay Mail, pointing out that almost everyday there are PKR leaders coming out to proclaim support for either Anwar or Azmin.
“As the division among leaders from both factions widens, it will create conflicts and crises within. Supporters from both camps will definitely use various platforms; and gutter politics or character assassinations will continue,” he added.
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