Sunday, May 26, 2013

PKR Threatens to Schism Over Azmin’s Call for Bipartisan Dialogue

PKR may finally be facing a decisive schism, and it all started with a speech.
On Friday, deputy president Azmin Ali mooted the idea (under certain conditions) of a bipartisan dialogue and approach to Malaysia's future.

"If we declare our intention to serve the people, to show patriotism ... then we need to seek common ground to bring political development to Malaysia," he said. "I think all parties need to have the moral courage to create political dialogue and engagement across the political divide," he added.
Azmin's gambit was seen as unlikely to succeed as the party has coalesced against him. Most quarters had expected a quiet retraction.

Instead, the party leadership is taking brickbats to Azmin.
PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail rubbished Azmin's proposal, making clear that Azmin did not speak with any authority from the party. "If I am asked for (my) opinion, any engagement process has to start against a backdrop that is conducive," Saifuddin told reporters Saturday.

Newly-elected MP Rafizi Ramli, who is reported to have scrapped with Azmin in the lead-up to GE13, sided with Saifuddin.

Party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail did not comment, but given the close ties of her family enjoys with Rafizi and Saifuddin, it may be inferred that they spoke for her faction in the party. It is not clear if they spoke for her faction in the family.

With the additional news that Saifuddin had publicly admonished Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim for his governance of the state and Khalid's public acceptance of the rebuke, it is clear that PKR is coalescing into two factions: Azmin's, and everyone else's.

It should be remembered that Azmin was one of the handful of original founders of the party in which he now finds himself marginalised. The MP for Gombak has often faced prison time and personal humiliation by following Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wherever his mentor has thrown himself.

Yet the order of the day is apparently reckless protest and the aim is bringing Azmin, Anwar's former blue eyed boy, under control.
Azmin now faces the choice of reaffirming his loyalty to Keadilan – the most likely outcome, given his history – or undertaking an open split with his party leadership. The former will reduce Azmin's credibility with the rakyat and reinforce PKR's reputation as Anwar's family-owned enterprise. The latter would tear PKR in two.

Ironically, Azmin's suggestion was not merely entirely sensible, it was actually very clever. After all, should Pakatan Rakyat co-operate with Barisan Nasional, it would reassure the rakyat that the Opposition pact is capable of mature governance and bolster its strength in those areas it lost at GE13. The party could continue its electoral challenges in court and still show itself capable of governance.

Instead, PKR is splitting into two factions: one that believes only in protest and reckless opposition, and one that believes in engagement and mature opposition.
Azmin represents the second choice. The rest of PKR leadership represents the first. It is unlikely that Azmin's will survive.

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