ANWAR Ibrahim, Mohamad Sabu and Azmin Ali. These are a handful of politicians who have suffered years of vile attacks about their personal lives.

Yet they are all in high office and have won elections despite having to repeatedly endure an endless series of compromising videos and pictures of lookalikes which they have denied.

Their present-day successes, said political analysts, show that a majority of Malaysian voters are mature enough to see what these salacious exposes are – gutter tactics meant to distract people from the big issues that matter more, such as the price of groceries and government malfeasance.

And just like the (controversies) that came before, the recent expose of a sex video claiming to involve Azmin, will likely not make a huge impact on his career or the future of his party in Pakatan Harapan.

Professor James Chin of the University of Tasmania, said one of the few individuals to have been brought down by a sex scandal was former MCA president and health minister Dr Chua Soi Lek. And that was because Chua admitted it was him in that video. 

“We live in a social media age. This video will only have legs if it is true. We have gone through this before in 2011 (Anwar’s alleged video with a foreign woman) and clips of (PAS leader) Mustafa Ali and (Amanah president) Mohamad Sabu. 

“They all survived because it could not be proven it was them,” said Chin.

But this does not mean that philandering politicians can get away with affairs, said another political scientist Professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya.

“A scandal can threaten the political career of a leader, especially if he is a Malay and if Malay voters believe the scandal.   

“But if the opposite happens, then there will be a public uprising just like in the two cases against Anwar Ibrahim,” said Awang Azman of the Academy of Malay Studies.

Deja vu videos

The recent scandal closely mirrors Anwar’s second sodomy allegations except for that the politician being smeared is not the Port Dickson MP.

Sodomy II was made public 10 years ago by an aide who claimed he had regular sexual relations with Anwar.

Anwar denied these accusations but was still prosecuted and jailed. He was later pardoned and set free when PH took over Putrajaya in May last year.

Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali is the latest Pakatan Harapan politician to confront a sex scandal in which a deputy minister’s aide claims they had sex in Sandakan in May. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 13, 2019.
Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali is the latest Pakatan Harapan politician to confront a sex scandal in which a deputy minister’s aide claims they had sex in Sandakan in May. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 13, 2019.

Before the purported victim Saiful Bukhari Azlan lodged a police report against Anwar, he had a meeting with an associate of Najib Razak, the former prime minister and Barisan Nasional chairman, who was Anwar’s main political nemesis.

In the years when the case was being appealed, Saiful would swear on video, including in Mecca that he indeed slept with Anwar.

In 2011, a group of businessmen distributed to the media what they claimed were videos of a man who looked like Anwar in bed with a foreign woman.

To convince an extremely sceptical and disgusted public, the men, wearing bullet-proof vests for protection, swore in a mosque on the Quran on the video’s authenticity.

Today’s latest plot also involves a man, claiming to be Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz, an aide to a deputy minister, who confessed on video yesterday that he was the person in the grainy sex video. The other man in the video is supposedly Azmin.

Two days ago, when the videos started circulating – but prior to Haziq’s confession – another Najib associate Lokman Noor Adam lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) asking the agency to probe into Azmin.

The man claiming to be Haziq also wants the minister investigated for corruption and ignored the fact that he himself had just admitted to being part of a criminal act.

The similarities in terms of how outrageous these episodes are make it hard for Malaysians to take them seriously, said Mohd Azlan Zainal of the think-tank Ilham Centre.

“The people are sick of these type of politics since Anwar’s first sodomy trial (in 1999) to the Rahim Thamby Chik video,” said Azlan, referring to one of the main culprits behind the 2011 video.

“These cases only affect individual reputations and do not result in a wholesale rejection of a politician’s party,” said Azlan, whose outfit has polled voter sentiments since the 2008 general election.

Despite the mud thrown at PH politicians, he said, the coalition’s parties have managed to increase their support levels from GE12 in 2008 – when all these scandals broke – to seize Putrajaya in GE14.

“Voters are more focused on bread-and-butter issues and those which affect their pockets,” said Azlan, adding that issues that affect the government’s performance are also high on their priorities list.

“People are more mature about assessing issues and news.”