KUALA LUMPUR – PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli may have helped the party stave off a backlash that could have stemmed from the brewing disquiet over Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s continued push for co-operation with PAS, even as their rift exposed division, analysts say.
According to them, a large segment of Pakatan Harapan’s voter base would likely deem Rafizi’s public volley against Azmin long overdue, as talks grow that more party supporters have begun questioning the PKR deputy president’s loyalty since his attempt to woo the Islamist party was unilateral, and done at the expense of alienating his own allies.
“What he said, did, was a reflection of what the grassroots felt,” political analyst Jeniri Amir with University Malaysia Sarawak told Malay Mail Online, referring to the Pandan MP.
“So, in that sense, what Rafizi did was actually good for the party… it may have helped PKR’s image among its own supporters,” he added.
In a lengthy statement published on his blog on August 27, Rafizi claimed Azmin’s insistence on co-operating with PAS is splitting the party.
The Pandan MP said many questions had to be asked, among them was whether retaining Selangor and PKR’s seats was worth the party sacrificing its principles, or if the political reality justified such a compromise, and whether PKR has the moral standing to lead the contest against the ruling Barisan Nasional. Azmin is the current Selangor mentri besar.
Azmin’s supporters subsequently fired back. Some called Rafizi a traitor, while others went as far as claiming the PKR vice-president was working as a saboteur for Umno, which had passionately expressed its desire to wrest the state back in the upcoming general election.
But while the knives may be out for Rafizi now, and concern about the party’s unity grows, analysts believe the fray may actually do more good for the PKR vice-president’s reputation than it would harm, especially in the long run.
The observers said party supporters and neutral voters will likely view the pressure by Azmin’s factions and critics as a sign that the Pandan MP, who already enjoys considerable popularity for his role in exposing various scandals, was only doing something right.
“It will hurt PKR’s image among certain people,” Datuk Ooi Kee Beng, director of think-tank Penang Institute, told Malay Mail Online.
“But, by and large, I think it boosts Rafizi’s reputation as an uncompromising leader who is playing long-term politics,” he added.
But what of the short term? Will voters, by now too familiar with PKR’s infamous infighting, continue to support this party while their leaders claw at each other?
Analysts seem to think so; with Ooi believing Malaysia’s collective political consciousness has evolved far enough that voters have become more discerning when it comes to understanding that differences in opinion should be celebrated in a true democracy.
“What would usually be internal party disagreements are often played out in the open in Malaysian politics nowadays,” Ooi said.
“This is in contradistinction to BN politics in general where a rosy picture is always painted about the internal state of the coalition. Naturally, politics evolves as well, and personalities play a decisive role in how that process takes place.”
But not everyone agrees.
Several political analysts have pointed out that only parties that are united and disciplined can draw confidence.
Those constantly engulfed in disagreement and display a penchant for airing skirmishes publicly will only bring about a dangerous political culture that enshrines the politician as a personality, not the party or its ideologies, they said.
“When they are not beholden to the ideologies of their respective parties’ [main ideology], they become more galvanised around issues and individuals,” Universiti Malaya’s Datuk Mohamad Abu Bakar told Malay Mail Online.
“But the problem when it comes down to that, the issue will mainly be about personal survival, or wrestling [for] power,” he said.
After holding out for months amid pressured by allies to sever all ties with PAS, Azmin announced last week that there will be no more effort to court the Islamist party in deference to the decision made by PKR’s political bureau.
Azmin had before insisted that PAS, now friendlier to Umno, must be brought into the Opposition fold to prevent multi-cornered fights in the general election that may split the Opposition vote.
– Malay Mail