More than 4,000 delegates thronged the PKR election convention on Sunday, giving Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim an extra boost to the morale as he prepares the party and the Pakatan Rakyat coalition for snap general polls widely expected to be called within these few months.
The atmosphere contrasted sharply with the PKR congress in November last year, where members were subdued after former FT chief Zaid Ibrahim, widely seen as an UMNO plant, rocked the party with a nasty challenge for the deputy presidency.
In the months that followed, PKR went through one of its worst patches, hit by both Anwar’s sodomy trial and the Datuk T sex video conspiracy. But despite the ups and downs, Anwar and PKR appear to have turned the corner quite decisively.
“Nothing can shock us or any Malaysian anymore. The Datuk T was the last straw, it was so obviously targeted to bring Anwar down,” an elated delegate told Malaysia Chronicle.
“We cannot accept this type of cruelty. The whole of PKR is now just waiting for the GE. We want to get going and we want to bring UMNO to justice and teach their leaders a lesson for all their sins of the past years.”
Quietly buiding support, Parliament may be dissolved soon
His mood reflected most of those at the gathering, which was dominated by youth members. Through the political upheavals and accusations flung at Anwar, many of the younger PKR leaders including vice president Nurul Izzah, Fuziah Salleh, Rafizi Ramli and Nik Nazmi had studiously courted the young professionals in the Pakatan states, especially Selangor.
“We have always been confident, we never gave up. It was the UMNO press, Utusan, the Star and all their leaders that made PKR seem as though it had no supporters,” strategy director Rafizi Ramli told Malaysia Chronicle.
Most PKR leaders prefer to err on the side of caution and brace for Parliament to be dissolved before the end of this month and snap general elections to take place before fasting begins in late July.
“Next week is the Supply Bill which will be debated for the whole week. Once that is done, we expect Najib to dissolve Parliament. If he doesn’t, well and good. We have more time to fine-tune our preparations, but if he does, we are fully prepared,” vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle in a text message to celebrate the convention.
‘Anwar time’ is here
Meanwhile, secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution early brought the hall down when he billed the next GE as a direct competition and choice between the 58-year old Najib and the 64-year old Anwar.
“Anwar is the envy of the ruling coalition. He has been at the top of government but he has also been in jail. His strength gives nightmares to them,” Saifuddin said to thunderous applause from the audience who jumped from their seats in excitement.
““It’s development time for Malaysia, it’s Anwar time for Malaysia.”
Indeed, most Malaysian voters would have known the two men since youth. Anwar was the quintessential youth leader – forever with fire in his belly and insistent on chalenging the establishment. He revelled and excelled in cross-country tours shouting himself hoarse through filthy and often stinky megaphones. Even then, social justice was his call and remains so until now.
Najib, who took over the Pekan parliamentary seat when he was 22 after his father, the second PM died, had different tastes, preferring a pampered and glitzy lifestyle. Not for him the sweaty rides in sweltering heat on rickety buses and trucks to way out villages. No running away from the police or FRU and never has he ever felt the stinging pain of a police baton swung smack on the side of his head and sending a shuddering pain through his ears.
Both men come from established faimilies, but being in the government for more than 3 decades, Najib and his brothers have amassed huge wealth. His policies have also contrasted even when Anwar was deputy premier and a major influence in the BN government.
Contrasting styles and beliefs
Anwar was against big government and was regarded as a reformist by the developed world and a favorite with the international bankers because of his stand against cronyism and corruption.
Najib opted to shelter behind Mahathir, who favoured creating an artificial layer of crony businessmen and arming them with government contracts to take on the world.
During the 10 years from 2000 to 2009, the Global Financial Integrity watchdog body has estimated RM888 billion was illicitly taken out of Malaysia by corrupt officials and businesses with links to the ruling elite.
“While the poor cannot even be sure of their taxi fare back from selling their wares in the market. Parliament approved RM65 million to maintain the PM’s house,” said Saifuddin.
“We don’t have Utusan Malaysia or TV, so when Anwar is coming to speak, all other speakers make way. Make sure the PA system is good so he doesn’t lose his voice.”
Whether the Pakatan is able to muster enough support to beat off the might of the BN machinery and their decades hold on vital institutions such as the Election Commission, police, military and judiciary remains to be seen.
But win or lose, it was clear that Anwar remains the preferred choice over Najib to many Malaysians.
– Malaysia Chronicle