Incumbent PKR deputy president Azmin Ali said he is not contesting the party’s president post as he sees no reason to challenge either Anwar Ibrahim or his wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Azmin said both Anwar, the party’s de facto leader and Wan Azizah, the incumbent president, are both more than capable in running the party, especially at this challenging times.
“Anwar is a symbol of the party’s struggle and we still need him to lead us,” Azmin said in an interview with several reporters in Penanti, Penang, yesterday.
“Should Anwar be banned from politics (if he fails to overturn his sodomy conviction and five-year jail term), Azizah has the capacity to continue the struggle and lead the party,” he added.
Azmin’s remark may surprise many as he is not known to be an ally of Wan Azizah, who is closer to Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim.
He was asked why he did not go for the president’s post after having served the party for over 15 years since the reformasi movement was launched in 1998 following the sacking of Anwar from his deputy prime minister’s post and his subsequent six-year jail term for corruption and sodomy.
Nevertheless, Azmin said that someday PKR will have to move beyond Anwar as the party is not “Anwar-centric”.
Both Anwar and Wan Azizah are gunning for the party’s top post, while Azmin will face three challengers for his deputy president’s post – Khalid, secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Hulu Selangor branch chief K Rama Chandram.
Azmin is facing an intense fight this time as Saifuddin has forged a ‘Our Future Together’ pact with Nurul Izzah Anwar and Rafizi Ramli, both of whom are contesting for the vice-president’s post.
Saifuddin had said the pact was to offer party members an alternative amid a bitter feud between Azmin and Khalid.
Speculation is rife that Anwar’s candidacy is due to pressure from Azmin, who had earlier wanted to challenge Wan Azizah for the top post.
But Azmin dismissed the notion, arguing he was one of the first leaders in PKR to have met Anwar as far back as last year and convinced him to contest the top seat.
“We believe the party still needs the leadership of Anwar but at the same time, Umno and BN do not allow him to have it easy,” Azmin said, when met at Yayasan Aman.
“They don’t want him to participate in the by-election in Kajang or take up any post in party. They will go all out to deny his right to lead us,” he lamented.
No defection even if he loses
Azmin was in Penang to address PKR members from the northern region, and he will be launching his campaign dubbed ‘Keadilan Raya’ on April 16 – 10 days ahead of the party’s polls which is to be held between April 26 and May 11, to be carried out in stages according to states.
A total of 496,923 out of the party’s 500,001 members are eligible to vote in this second direct party elections.
Asked if he would eventually rejoin Umno if he loses the deputy president’s post in the coming polls, Azmin retorted, “My track record speaks for itself.”
He was one of the first to be arrested under the Internal Security Act on Sept 16, 1998, four days before Anwar was arrested.
The authorities had wanted him – the longest-serving staff in Anwar’s office – to fabricate evidence against his boss, Azmin claimed.
“Certainly I didn’t do it. So why should I hop to Umno or BN now, especially when we have been very successful in strengthening the party?” he asked.
“I will continue to serve PKR even when not elected in this party election.”
But Azmin conceded that he might have stepped on some toes due to his criticisms of Khalid, especially over the recent water deal between Selangor and the federal government.
He also joked he often had to play ‘bad cop’ to balance Anwar’s ‘good cop’ image although he has to pay the price of being unpopular.
“We promised transparency, good governance and accountability and now we agree with them (federal government) that this deal will be subjected to the Official Secrets Act?” he asked.
“It is against our stand as we were the first to pass the Freedom of Information Act at the Selangor state assembly,” he noted.
“We talked about reformasi and transparency, we condemn Umno and BN for their mistakes but keep quiet when it comes to PKR?” he queried.
“It was the same with the issue of salary increase for the MB, speaker and state executive councillors in Selangor. You expect me to keep quiet? I have to speak up. That is Azmin.”