The country needs at least a two-party system for a healthy democracy to work rewardingly for the people. Regrettably, when Barisan National (BN) is a relatively stable coalition, the Opposition is still in disarray. The next general election is just around the corner but parties in the Opposition are still in frenzy. A simple reason to this is that some leaders in the Opposition lack political maturity.

PAS is looking forward to form its own team of players to take on BN and Pakatan Harapan (PH). PH on the other hand has a team of four players – PKR, DAP, Amanah and Bersatu.  Among these four players, DAP has proven to be the most principled and stable as a political party. DAP has long established itself and is favoured by voters in many urban constituents. Presently DAP has the most number of parliamentary seats among the Opposition parties. Amanah is a new party formed after some of its leaders broke off from PAS. The party’s influence has yet to be truly tested.

PPBM or Bersatu is also a fresh party but it is gaining support from Umno members and young voters who are peeved by Umno’s leadership and BN’s performance.  Without a shred of doubt, the party’s accomplishment can be attributed to Mahathir Muhammad – Bersatu Adviser – the former prime minister of the country. He still has the thump and influence to sway voters’ electoral preference both in urban and rural areas and is generally popular among dissenters who are not happy with the present government.

Mahathir seems to be the most charismatic leader

The general opinion among political analysts is that Mahathir appears to be the most charismatic leader among all the Opposition leaders. His experience, maturity and wisdom could help the Opposition win the next general election if all opposition parties could mend their differences and come under one political umbrella.

PKR on the other hand leads the present government in Selangor with Azmin Ali – PKR Deputy President – as the menteri besar. This is a blessing for PKR as without this state platform the party would have faded into obscurity. However, Azmin has proven himself to be a capable leader despite that fact he was not the first choice to become the menteri besar after the infamous Kajang Move in 2014 in which Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – PKR President – contested under the PKR ticket when Anwar Ibrahim was disqualified to do so.

Supposedly the Kajang Move was to make Anwar the menteri besar of Selangor to replace the then incumbent – Khalid Ibrahim. When this did not materialise, it was Wan Azizah who was slated to take over the post. Even this did not materialise and Azmin was finally endorsed by the Palace to lead the Selangor government, possibly at the displeasure of a few other ambitious leaders within PKR.

The Kajang Move was not a wise manoeuvre; it did not achieve its initial goal in paving the way for Anwar and later Azizah to become the menteri besar of Selangor. Resources were put to waste and it had also caused some friction between PAS and Anwar. Wisely, PKR could have in an effortless manner appointed Azmin to the post instead of jostling candidates that could not see the silver lining. Appointing Azmin, the Gombak assemblyman, to replace Khalid right from the beginning instead of creating the convoluted Kajang Move could have avoided the “restiveness” the state assembly had to go through.

It was alleged that some PKR party leaders were not in favour of Azmin being made the menteri besar then.   Beyond that, PAS was not happy with the Kajang Move though they did campaign for the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat during the by-election. DAP too had little choice but to help campaign for the coalition though some of the party  leaders felt that the Kajang Move was not really a necessity.

Anwar made a great mistake

Anwar made a great mistake by resorting to the Kajang Move, as just before the Kajang by-election on March 7, 2014 he was sentenced to five years’ jail after the Court of Appeal overturned his previous “sodomy” acquittal by the High Court. He now would possibly be free after June 2018 and it would take another five years beyond that before he could contest in any election to make a comeback to parliament. Anwar would be 78 or more by then.

If BN wins the next general election, Anwar’s political career will be as good as over. If the Opposition (PH) wins, there will be a chance for him to seek pardon and get back to politics. Whatever happens, as Mahathir purportedly said, every move taken by the new government should comply with the legal processes and procedures and this all Malaysians should uphold.

With due respect to Anwar and Wan Azizah, giving too much hope to or having so much obsession for both of them to bring changes to the country at this moment is considered by many political analysts as unwise, smacks of parochialism and may not be what the people aspire for right now. Just give them a political break at this moment. The people’s struggle for want of change seemingly cannot be focussed on Anwar forever. There has to be a shift to many other critical issues facing the nation today, such as the falling economy, corruption and financial leakages, crime and other social menaces, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, the independence of the judiciary and other government institutions, and so forth.

These are among the concerns PKR as a political party should centre on if they want to win votes.  The recent assembly should have focussed more on these fundamental issues instead, to assure the people that the Opposition can replace BN.

The people’s struggle for reform cannot be shrouded by one or two “binding” figures alone even though they have contributed a lot to the party and have knitted the opposition parties together. At the moment there are many more capable leaders in the Opposition who could replace them and steer the Opposition to make a dent on Umno’s or BN’s dominance.

This, the delegates at the recent PKR Assembly have failed to see.  Overtly endorsing Anwar and Wan Azizah for the post of prime minister and making this the prime issue at the assembly do not bode well for PKR and the voters in general.

Of course the best option would still be if the choice for the post of prime minister is decided amicably by all parties after the opposition has won the next general election.

Political immaturity

Political analysts have the view that there are some leaders within PKR – due to their political immaturity – who have a warped view of politics and nation building. These leaders have created a blooper in their recent assembly by making their imprisoned leader Anwar the main agenda of the congress. In the assembly of PKR representatives from all over the country they seemed to have unanimously endorsed him to be the 7th prime minister of the country – with Wan Azizah becoming the seat-warming prime minister before this could materialise.

This was indeed a very unwise move by the delegates. They have failed to realise that there are a few legal hurdles before they could push Anwar to stand in any by-election after his freedom from prison, what more if Pakatan Harapan could not win the next general election. PKR should have judiciously considered other candidates as prime minister so as not to make voters have the perception that the party lacks other capable leaders.

Those disenchanted with the country’s ruling coalition and the young voters who want to see a vibrant personality to take over the premiership are not going to buy PKR’s stand by endorsing its president to become the prime minster, warm the seat and then pass it over to Anwar.  There can be too many hurdles to this move and this will later cause more political flux and frictions within the lose PH coalition.

If at all there has to be a candidate for now to help the Opposition win in the general election, credibly those choices would be Mahathir, Azmin or Muhyiddin Yassin (PPBM President). The former with his vast experience would be an asset to the Opposition as well as the nation. Azmin who has always been “cool” throughout the many challenges he had faced before becoming the menteri besar of Selangor has proven himself to be a capable leader. As for Muhyiddin, he was the Deputy President of Umno before the formation of Bersatu.

Form a shadow cabinet

The idea of appointing a leader to just “warm” the seat before Anwar takes over is a pathetic political move.  The people are not in favour of this sort of political scheme as they see that the Opposition cannot always be a platform for just one or two personalities.  PKR should learn to come out from Anwar’s shadow to stay relevant.

In fact, PKR has a worthy leader in Azmin and he should be proposed as the potential prime minister candidate representing PKR. By doing so, PKR will continue to get support from not only Selangoreans but also Malaysians in general.  PKR should bear in mind that Azmin had managed to steer out without much hiccup from the seven month turmoil the state assembly had to go through after the Kajang Move. The state is now flourishing under his administration.

Azmin is largely accepted by all the component parties in PH and even PAS.  Each of the other parties – Amanah and Bersatu can propose their own candidates, respectively.  PH can then come to a consensus on the best and most viable candidate to head the country.  As a matter of fact, PH should by now form a shadow cabinet comprising their capable leaders before the next general election to convince the electorate that they can be a viable alternative to BN.  Whatever the approach, PH parties should not make the issue of who will become the prime minister a contentious one as this will make the people lose confidence in the coalition. An unruffled but united PH would be able to take on BN with ease in the present political scenario even without PAS in their team of players.

Moaz Nair