Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is not a well-known figure in the PKR leadership outside Malaysia, but he has a story to tell about the party that we do not hear every day.
Nik Nazmi is a member of Parliament for Setiawangsa and PKR’s organising secretary. He is involved in the party at several levels.
From the debates at the dawn of the reformasi movement, to the support of the Islamist Party, PAS, members for Anwar, he says it was all surreal.
“Back home, I was surprised that my pro-PAS father fervently believed that Anwar was innocent,” he writes. Anwar was then accused of sodomy and abuse of power.
He was fired in September 1998 as deputy PM and charged in the court after he came out with a black eye which he got from his first night in jail.
But Nik Nazmi story has something that is worth reporting. It is of how the party struggled with defeats in 1999 and 2004, before it became what it is today.
In 1999, the new political formation won five seats but in Malay strongholds in the rural areas. Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail won the Permatang Pauh (Penang) stronghold.
The other big names of the party, said Nik Nazmi, were defeated in the multiracial constituencies in urban areas. They did not support Anwar’s reformasi.
“We hadn’t quite worked out the magic formula that propelled us to victory in later years. The opposition obtained a majority of the Malay voters but Dr Mahathir Mohamad and BN were saved by the non-Malay voters,” he said.
But in the 2004 general election the worst happened. PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi delivered the biggest victory for BN sweeping 90 percent of the seats in Parliament.
Only one PKR member was victorious, that too with a razor thin margin. Wan Azizah defeated the BN candidate in Penang by 500 votes.
The party was in shambles, reformasi a far-cry from its hey days when thousands of people, mostly Malays would turn up on the streets facing the batons of the Federal Reserve Units.
The beatings on the street did not break the back of the reform movement, but the poor results in the polls became a straw that could have killed the movement.
Yet, Anwar’s sodomy verdict was overturned the same year (2004) and as promised, Badawi got Anwar freed against the will of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“But there were whispers that he would eventually shut down PKR and rejoin Umno like so many previous ex-leaders did. The party had just merged with the five-decade-old Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM),” he says.
Anwar, out of jail, did not kill the party. Instead, he brought it to greater heights with the Pakatan Rakyat (which included the PAS) in 2008.
That year, the opposition coalition won five states. A feat that was never achieved before by the opposition in Malaysia. They also won more than 80 Parliamentary seats. A shocking result. But it was not enough to dislodge the BN.
The PKR is celebrating the 20 years of reformasi in Malaysia. -/TISG