It has been almost one month since Pakatan Harapan’s leadership council ruled that the opposition coalition would not cooperate with PAS in the upcoming general election, which must be held by the middle of next year.
However, the issue of PKR seeking terms with PAS still lingers with some within the party believing it should still be pursued.
But for PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, the party’s position as stated by president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is clear – the Harapan ruling stands.
“She (Wan Azizah) came out clearly the day that Harapan pledged there would no longer be negotiations with PAS and we’re going to move on (without PAS),” Nurul Izzah told Malaysiakini in an interview on Thursday.
Nurul Izzah, however, indicated that ties should not be severed completely. She said social engagements, such as visiting a leader who is ill, was acceptable.
“If (Prime Minister) Najib Abdul Razak is sick, I would visit him. Does it mean I will have an electoral pact with him? No.
“So the issue is, social engagement, that’s fine; visiting people who are sick, that’s fine. But I’m tied to Harapan’s (stand) and that’s the end of the matter.”
Previously, a visit by Wan Azizah and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali to PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang who was recuperating in hospital triggered speculation of PKR engaging PAS in formal talks.
The issue of PKR and PAS working out an electoral agreement has deeply divided the party. For example, in Kelantan, PKR members who are against talks with PAS are demanding the sacking of the pro-negotiations state party leader.
The pursuit of an arrangement with PAS mainly centres on avoiding three-cornered fights, which could end up benefiting BN in the next election.
Nurul Izzah conceded that winning three-cornered fights would be challenging, but argued that this was not impossible.
However, while adamant on there being no negotiations with PAS, Nurul Izzah did not rule out the possibility of a post-election electoral pact.
“There could be electoral pacts after the election… that was what happened in 2008,” she said, referring to the birth of the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat coalition between PKR, DAP, and PAS.
She nevertheless stressed that PKR and Harapan should not be quick to condemn or deride PAS leaders. She said efforts must instead be made to understand why some PAS leaders are “bent” on having three-cornered fights.
Nurul Izzah also called for direct engagement with PAS members, whom she said have been PKR’s compatriots since 1998.
“We have to make that distinction – they’re not the leaders, they’re not the elites. They are well-meaning people who actually care about this country,” the Lembah Pantai MP said.
In the following excerpt from Malaysiakini’s exclusive interview, Nurul Izzah delves further on Harapan’s chances in winning three-cornered fights, and her experience thus far as PKR co-election director.
The interview has been edited for language and brevity.
If there are no straight fights, if Harapan can’t work out an agreement with PAS, PSM and others, can you win?
We’ve done our best to incorporate everyone in the framework of our reform agenda. This is not an individualistic or a personality contest. Everyone has to live by the same rules…
If I were to say I have issues with some leaders – maybe I (do) have some issues – but people are not electing me to focus on my issues. I’m supposed to resolve them to address the people’s welfare.
Time and tide wait for no one. If they don’t believe in the reform agenda, then we just have to move on and articulate a clear-cut offer for change.
Can you win three-cornered fights?
I think it’s going to be challenging. It’s not impossible, we just have to be very clear in our need to convince and to bring forth a clear-cut choice for the electorate.
Which is why I think (Harapan chairperson Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad) is hell-bent on having just one logo, although the Registrar of Societies is still waiting for instructions from the top.
I doubt we’ll get that but at least people know we’ve come to a position where everyone is willing to embrace one logo.
Did you think this would happen three years ago? No, you didn’t. Nobody did…
So I think because of that, with the lack of media access, you have to make sure every voter understands that this is the choice, a stark choice, facing them.
At the end of the day, the major determining factor is trust. If there is no trust that the people will stick to the reform agenda, that’s tough. One of the biggest projects in Malaysia is nurturing that trust.
I’m more than happy, I’m an inclusive leader, I would really want to address everyone, but there has to be certain things that determine our decision-making. Talking about governing, there could be electoral pacts after the election as well. That was what happened in 2008.
How has your job as PKR election director been?
I share the portfolio with (PKR secretary-general) Saifuddin Nasution. It has been a true honour and privilege for me to not just fight alongside motivated election workers in the party, but also other volunteers who have been at it far longer than I have.
Our biggest asset is a group of concerned individuals who want to strengthen the party’s organisation in terms of our election department and make sure we work alongside technologies as you can see through (our mobile app) Spera, which allows us to democratise the scouting for phantom voters and to verify the status of the electoral rolls.
As election director, as opposition in Malaysia, there are many challenges.
You are fighting repeated unconstitutional moves by the Election Commission (EC), you are fighting moves by a biased EC that is constantly tampering electoral roles, adding phantom voters through postal votes. We lost 30 seats in the last election just purely on postal and early votes.
Of course, for me, I’m looking forward to a future filled with a genuine level electoral playing field and of course, free and fair elections.
That’s the hope that keeps me motivated. But we have to be pragmatic. These are challenging times and they are not fighting fair.
How can PKR and Harapan improve its election machinery?
Alhamdulillah, we have quite a cohesive unit in the election department under Harapan which was just recently formed. We have discussed further collaboration. There’s always a need to increase coordination between central, state, and local machinery.
Of course, there’re different dynamics in every state. Perlis will be different from Johor, Kedah will be different from Perak. But there’s always the need to improve on that front; the campaign should be starting to ramp up and not just mainly (focusing) on men.
I think my focus is now to improve outreach to women… It (Harapan) has never had a town hall to meet and greet the women who are mothers, career women, homemakers, single women, women who actually have such a huge stake in the development and future of this country.
That’s what I want to do as well. This has been sufficiently recognised by Harapan in terms of voter canvassing. I think, far more than previously, for the targeted 50 seats.
We need to ensure that BN’s external agenda doesn’t distract us. We always have to bring back that it’s not just about winning elections, it’s about saving Malaysia and that means you have to be constantly articulating why free and fair elections will have an impact on people’s ordinary lives.
What’s our message? We have to make it more stark – that after the elections, if Najib wins, it’s going to be another 10 years of kleptocrats. Versus the reformists who can reform, bring change to the outcome of policies and programmes that can benefit people’s lives.
That difference needs to be made more stark. The level of lost integrity by the kleptocrats, I don’t think we’ve articulated that enough.
It’s not just about 1MDB. The issue is of lost credibility, the fact that the current government can’t provide good governance. That has to be reinforced. And we, at this moment, are not just addressing the issue of high cost of living, stagnant low salaries, lack of employment opportunities for graduates.
We, the opposition, are also led by the most politically experienced opposition leaders in Malaysia in recent history. That you can’t deny.
Former prime minister, name it. Former deputy prime ministers, name it. Former best finance minister, we’ve got it, and a couple more chief ministers, current and past.