Anwar Ibrahim, the PM-in-waiting called the ‘anointed one’ by some international media, is facing a difficult period in his own party. His deputy, Azmin Ali, whom Prime Minister Tun Dr Mohamad Mahathir turned into a powerful Minister of Economic Affairs, is competing for the PM’s post.
A commentary piece in the South China Morning Post says Azmin’s recent tensions with Anwar stem from his own desire to become the premier in-waiting.
The piece by Tashny Sukumaran says the recent happenings in the PKR mark a decoupling of political destinies that were previously intertwined.
“The two men share a long and complex history dating back to when Anwar was a minister and a top member of the now-opposition United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which administrated the country for over six decades under the previous Barisan Nasional coalition.”
The writer describes in detail the long year of infighting that rocked the PKR in 2019, saying it’s been a long year for Azmin.
The minister was embroiled in a gay-sex video scandal that the police promised will be closed by the end of this year.
Anwar, the leader of the PKR, did not take any action against Azmin leaving it to the authorities to investigate the matter. When the matter turned into a political fight for survival from Azmin, Anwar got the party to fire the accuser who says he was a party in the racy videos and Azmin was his partner.
The simple accusation he made against Azmin got him fired.
Azmin has also been in the wrong light on the local social media scene, getting blasted left and right on Facebook or Twitter by locals who accuse him of politicking instead of fixing people’s problems.
Many accused him of money politics and the writer says last year’s PKR internal elections saw widespread claims of cheating and vote-buying in what was dubbed by analysts as the party’s dirtiest elections to date.
The most recent straw in the relations between Anwar and Azmin is the latter’s accusations that Anwar attacked him during a policy address at PKR’s Congress in Malacca.
Azmin later backed down from the attacks against Anwar showing respect and saying Anwar was still his party president.
But he was the first to come out to voice his views on the conflicts in the party after months of virtual silence.
Though the article says Azmin helped the PKR make dramatic and unprecedented gains in 2008, the ground sees Anwar as the man who got Pakatan the honours of denying Barisan Nasional and then PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi the crucial two-thirds majority.
It says it is when Azmin became the chief minister of the Selangor state that the cracks within PKR began to show.
There were clashes between Azmin and other factions within PKR and the party struggled to stay united under a leader distracted by weighty legal proceedings.
There was the political manoeuvre dubbed the Kajang Move in which party insiders attempted to oust the incumbent state chief minister, a fellow PKR member, and replace him with Anwar’s wife who is now the deputy PM Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
According to the writer, this episode is the straw that broke the party into two, one supporting Anwar and the other Azmin.
It is after the 2018 elections and the role given to him by Dr Mahathir that got him to break away from Anwar’s mantle as a protégé leading him to position himself as a replacement for Anwar.
But will Anwar sack Azmin and risk creating another martyr the same way that it happened when Dr Mahathir sacked him in 1998 that led to the creation of the reform movement?
“The chief concern as the rift deepens, however, is that of the coherence and stability within the Pakatan Harapan coalition, in which PKR commands the bulk of its parliamentary presence,” the writer says.