PKR seen as opposition’s problem child

Almost every time a major negative event happened in the opposition camp over the past year, the trail more often than not led to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s political party.

A string of unfortunate incidents has caused some, even those within the opposition camp, to cast the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) as the problem child in the three-party Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition.

The issue was acknowledged by Anwar’s daughter and PKR lawmaker Nurul Izzah, and assemblyman Nik Nazmi Ahmad, who said in a joint statement this week: “We understand that some Malaysians might get tired with all the drama that has transpired thus far. Some might be losing patience with us.”

But they sought to reassure their supporters that “PKR will continue to fight for change. The first battle is to fight to change ourselves for the better”.

Some of the cases involving PKR that have attracted negative press include that of the two lawmakers who defected in Perak, causing the PR government to be toppled; a Kedah assemblyman who resigned amid allegations of bigamy; and an aide to Anwar who accused the leader of having sodomised him.

Some say the PKR is the weakest part of the PR, which has the secular DAP and PAS as its two other members. Yet, PKR and Anwar also play the key role of being the glue that has kept PR together.

PKR was founded in 1999 to fight for the release of Anwar, who was imprisoned for sodomy and corruption. Its internal problems are often blamed on poor-quality members, a lack of a political agenda and a dearth of leaders apart from Anwar himself and his wife, PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail.

A PAS party insider said: “PKR is a relatively new party. They just accept whoever wants to join and run for elections. That’s why they’re facing so many problems now.”

DAP lawmaker Liew Chin Tong said that prior to March last year, the opposition was seen as permanently remaining just the opposition. PKR had only one parliamentary seat before the general election on March 8 last year. Today, it has 31 seats and has key roles in running Selangor and Penang states.

“Better-qualified professionals didn’t want to put their hands up. Before March 8, we had to beg people to contest,” Liew told The Straits Times.

Those in the PR coalition remain undeterred and feel that things will improve.

Anwar revamped the PKR leadership earlier this week, seen as a positive move to improve the party. His wife, Dr Wan Azizah, who is popular with the media, will be the main leader who will comment on issues.

Anwar’s trusted lieutenant Azmin Ali has been put in charge of a task force to strengthen its leadership. “The job of the team is to ensure the quality, effectiveness and discipline of the state leadership, the divisions, MPs and assemblymen,” Anwar wrote in his blog.

Political scientist James Chin, from Monash University’s Malaysia campus, said PR will unlikely be bogged down by the negative incidents in the long run.

“For now, while (the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition) is their common enemy, all these problems will be swept under the carpet,” he said.

The Straits Times

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