KUALA LUMPUR – The absence of two prominent leaders – Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat – has given rise to speculation as to how Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), DAP and PAS will fill the void in leadership to enable their coalition to stave off challenges and remain a force to be reckoned with.
Several political analysts interviewed by Bernama, however, predict more trouble in Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) political landscape, simply because the unity among its member parties had all along hinged on Anwar’s leadership as Opposition Leader, as well as their mutual reverence and respect for the late Nik Aziz, who was also PAS Spiritual Leader.
The analysts said the current situation had not only weakened the coalition but could also lead to backbiting, and even have an impact on the coalition’s followers, whose support was largely due to their loyalty to, and respect for, the two popular leaders.
PKR found its wings clipped on Feb 10 when the Federal Court dismissed Anwar’s final appeal against his conviction for sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008, and upheld his five-year jail sentence. PAS, on the other hand, lost Nik Aziz, 84, on Feb 12 after he succumbed to prostrate cancer.
WHO WILL REPLACE ANWAR?
Prof Dr Jayum Jawan, who is the deputy head of the Political, Security and International Affairs Cluster at the National Council of Professors in the Prime Minister’s Department, is convinced that the absence of the two leaders will have an impact on the opposition coalition.
“All this while it was Anwar who downplayed the differences between DAP and PAS by diverting the people’s attention to other more abstract matters. With him now not around, the question on everyone’s mind is, who is fit to replace him.
“Meanwhile, PAS has lost a wise and experienced leader… this may create a situation where the young turks may boldly take on the old guards, because the leader who they revered and respected is no more there to admonish them,” he
As for PKR, Jayum expected leadership problems ahead because the party has yet to reveal the “crown prince” who would replace Anwar.
“Anwar was made to stop in his tracks (due to the Federal Court decision), and it was certainly not a voluntary move. The question is, who is the ‘crown prince’? If there is one, then is he or she ready (to take over Anwar’s position)?” he asked.
Asso Prof Dr Ahmad Martadha Mohamed, who is dean of the College of Legal, Government and International Studies at Universiti Utara Malaysia, said PR’s position has been dealt a heavy blow, albeit temporarily, due to the lack of
experienced and charismatic leaders like Anwar and Nik Aziz in PKR and PAS.
“Anwar somehow managed to patch things up whenever disputes arose between PR members. More recently, PAS and DAP have been refusing to compromise on their policies which involved their parties’ respective idealogies and struggles, like the implementation of hudud law and local council elections,” he said.
Referring to Nik Aziz’s calibre, Ahmad Martadha said the late leader’s integrity was well respected and his influence was among the primary factors that contributed to the stability of the opposition coalition.
“Not only PAS but Pakatan Rakyat too will feel the void he (Nik Aziz) had created. It will be hard to find someone like Nik Abdul Aziz to fill that void,” he said.
CHANCE FOR DAP
Will DAP make use of this void to spread its wings and influence within PR? Commenting on this, Ahmad Martadha said he was sure that the DAP, emboldened by the absence of the two senior politicians, would become more vocal on various issues.
“In the past, the DAP was not all that vociferous on issues such as hudud because it respected Nik Aziz. With Tok Guru (Nik Aziz) no longer around, it may start firing its views without being fearful of PAS’ reaction,” he said.
Dr Low Yong San, a senior lecturer in political science at Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Distance Education, however, felt that it would not be wise for the DAP to be too outspoken because the democratic system of politics was
all about a game of numbers.
“The DAP’s support base mainly consists of the Chinese community, who are a minority group. The DAP leadership must understand that without the support of the other races, especially the Malays, they can’t possibly become the ruling
party, whether at the state or federal level. I think the DAP leaders are well aware of this political reality,” he explained.
RELATIONS MAY SUFFER
Will PAS-DAP relations, as well as cooperation within PR, suffer in the absence of Anwar and Nik Aziz?
Low, on his part, did not discount the possibility of PAS-DAP ties getting more testy in the absence of Nik Aziz’ peaceful demeanour and influence.
Likewise, Anwar too would be sorely missed as he usually played the role of mediator whenever disputes cropped up between PAS and DAP.
“But I think the (opposition) coalition’s future will not rest on any individual leader but on the fundamental questions regarding the differences in the political idealogies between PAS and DAP.
“If this issue (political cooperation) is not resolved, we can imagine the chaos that will erupt should PR take over the reins of the federal government, what with PAS insisting on upholding its Islamic nation agenda and DAP vehemently opposing it, while PKR is kept busy mediating,” he said.
SYMPATHY MAY NOT GENERATE MORE SUPPORT
Will the Federal Court’s recent decision to uphold Anwar’s conviction drum up a fresh wave of sympathy for the Opposition Leader and sway voter support towards PR?
Low figured that this time around, it would not have much impact on the people. Compared with the 1998/1999 period, which saw a big swing in Malay support from BN to the opposition coalition, it was unlikely that a similar chain of events would recur during the next general election.
“Any political support which is derived from sympathy for a certain individual or his or her family is not long lasting. It all depends on how effectively PKR can convince the people that Anwar’s case was, indeed, a political conspiracy to keep him behind bars.
“However, it’s a huge challenge for the party to mobilise the support of the masses and convince the people that Anwar had twice been a victim of the nation’s political masters,” he added.
Jayum agreed that it would not be all that easy for the PR parties to retain their seat numbers in the 14th general election.
“I think both the BN and Pakatan Rakyat stand an equal chance… it all depends on what kind of packages they offer to the voters, who have now become a more discerning lot,” he said. – Bernama