Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It is Time to Be an Opposition Leader, forget GE 13.

It is widely understood within Pakatan Rakyat and outside of the Opposition pact that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has long felt more comfortable with street protest than with ordinary party politics and leadership. For over a decade, he has been a potent symbol of the DAP's and PAS' allegations, regardless of their veracity, and as a reward, they have even allowed him to be the Opposition leader for very close to five years now.

Yet his complete failure to accomplish very much in uniting the Opposition, and his obvious weaknesses of style and leadership, may very well cost him even that.

It is now being widely reported that permanent MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has been in constant contact with DAP and PAS leadership, as well as certain alleged Borneo MPs, to determine whether he has the votes needed to become Prime Minister. Even as the reports of high-level contacts with PAS and DAP – with whom Ku Li was allied after the Umno Team A/Team B battle in 1987 – continue, it is also reported that Pakatan have not yet committed to the potential Umno renegade's project.

It is not hard to decode what this means: Anwar refuses to contemplate any scenario in which he would not be Prime Minister, and so PKR will not commit to this project.

The Ku Li story has been reported as a threat to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, yet it is much more immediately a threat to Anwar and his standing in Pakatan, and a reminder that his infatuation with street protests rather than leadership has left him entirely expendable.

It is also a reminder that if Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang could mercilessly abandon their principles to embrace Anwar after two decades of vilifying him, they are certainly capable of dropping him like so much rotten fruit at the first opportunity.

It is now clearly time for Anwar to actually be what he claims he is: a real Opposition leader, not just a YB with a penchant for street rallies. He must not only convince his alliance that they cannot win without him (despite the fact that it is not clear they can win with him), he must also convince them that abandoning him would ruin any chance they have at Putrajaya.

He must strive to be the statesman he would have everyone believe. His party must end its post-election antics and instead turn to responsible governance, outlining plans for redelineation, electoral reform, economic reform and the fight against corruption beyond a broad hatred of Umno. A real shadow cabinet would be a good idea, as well.

This sort of statesmanship and competence have not been immediately apparent in Anwar for some time, and there is every reason to doubt they exist. Yet for Anwar's sake, he must try to find those lost arts, and soon.

An Anwar seen as a competent and responsible statesman would be a weapon too valuable for Pakatan to put aside. An Anwar who lives for the next mass protest is a useful clown who can be abandoned at a whim.

It is up to Anwar to decide which he is.

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