This article was first published in Star Online by Tarrence Tan on 15 September 2018 at
KUALA LUMPUR: As the PKR polls draw closer, political pundits are closely monitoring the party’s internal squabble as it unfolds slowly, offering outsiders a rare glimpse of bickering leaders from differing factions.
What stands out in the looming party polls is the fight for the party deputy presidency between Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Rafizi Ramli, which saw an intensifying split between several outspoken leaders from both factions.
To PKR Youth chief and Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, the party’s internal rivalry is part and parcel of politics in a democratic setting.
“We could run the party with a system of having appointed leaders, but that wouldn’t be democracy.
“That is why we should welcome such competition (Azmin vs Rafizi). People are asking, ‘Why now?’
“Well, democracy is messy and democracy is noisy. But democracy is necessary,” Nik Nazmi said during an interview at his service centre in Setiawangsa here.
Nik Nazmi, who has been a PKR member since 2001, pointed out that the race for the party’s No.2 should be centred on finding a suitable leader to be in the same team as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is expected to be the eighth prime minister.
“As this is a consensus in Pakatan Harapan, when he (Anwar) becomes the eighth prime minister, he will need a solid team to back him as party president,” he said.
On July 27, Nik Nazmi publicly endorsed Rafizi, a current vice-president, for deputy presidency, saying that the Anwar-Rafizi combination would be the best to lead PKR.
Pressed for comment, Nik Nazmi said: “I don’t believe that Azmin is bad, but I believe Rafizi is better.”
Observers had said a split could take place in the nearly 20-year-old party if Azmin, a key PKR leader, fails to defend his deputy presidency.
But Nik Nazmi said members should vote in their preferred leaders, as leaders through meritocracy should win top party positions.
“If I believe that Rafizi is better, then we shouldn’t be afraid to put someone better just because it could break the party.
“PKR has never shied away from making difficult decisions,” he said, citing the infamous Kajang Move of 2014 as an example.
The Kajang Move was orchestrated by PKR to replace former Selangor mentri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim with Anwar. However, the plan fell through and Azmin ultimately replaced Khalid as mentri besar.
“But it was with the Kajang Move that we succeeded in removing Khalid. We also broke up with PAS because of the Kajang Move, which subsequently created Pakatan Harapan. So, it is better that we make the difficult decisions now.
“Otherwise, the next party polls would be very close to the 15th General Election,” said Nik Nazmi.
Allegations of Azmin being Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s lackey and the conspiracy to prevent Anwar from being the next prime minister have been Rafizi’s battle cry as he campaigns across the country.
Nik Nazmi felt that Rafizi’s concerns were legitimate, citing Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin’s criticism against Pakatan’s choice of prime minister as an example.
“Zuraida has in the past criticised the announcement of Dr Mahathir as the seventh Prime Minister and Anwar as the eighth,” he noted.
Zuraida is a known Azmin loyalist.
Nik Nazmi remains optimistic about the party’s resilience.
“PKR is not Azmin’s party, Rafizi’s party or Anwar’s party. It is a brand that has existed since the reformasi era. PKR will remain no matter who wins,” he said.