Two weeks ago, Anwar Ibrahim expressed his concerns that the Abdullah Badawi government may hold the next general election just before his current regulatory restriction from standing as an election candidate is removed. He conveyed to the press his suspicion of a possible UMNO tactic to neutralize his candidature by calling for an general election earlier than its due date of April 2009.
Anwar Ibrahim is barred by the law from running for political office until April 2008 because of his 6-year jail sentence for corruption (already served).
However, Anwar conceded that the deteriorating economic condition could well be another reason for early elections. He said: “The economy is not doing too well right now and if they continue with their backward policies, I don’t see how things will get any better. I believe they will have it earlier.”
He has even nominated as his constituency Permatang Pauh, currently held by his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
I support Anwar Ibrahim’s candidature for the next general election because I want to see whether he is sincere in wanting to stand as a PKR candidate. Some of my friends are supporters of Anwar and have questioned my doubts of him but as a once-supporter of reformasi Anwar, I couldn't help but notice his coyish reluctance to commit himself completely to PKR.
If he truly intends to stand for election on a PKR ticket, I believe everyone, with only some exceptions, will be happy.
The powers that be, or those currently jostling for power, in UMNO should be ecstatic because Anwar would have then Ku-Li-ed* himself a la Semangat 46. His divorce with UMNO would then be near irrevocable, irredeemable and irreversible. Then, if he still wants to be PM, he would then have to make it to that position under the PKR banner. Therefore I believe that if the government does call for an early general election, it will be more of an economic reason rather than fear of Anwar Ibrahim.
* emulating the example of former UMNO strongman Tengku Razaleigh (known locally as Ku Li) in leaving UMNO to form his own party called Semangat 46 in 1989. It was an unmitigated political disaster for Ku Li.
The opposition would be delighted, especially Dr Syed Ali, one of PKR's vice president and Lim Kit Siang, boss of the DAP – the former because he took his socialist PRM into PKR in the belief that PKR with Anwar as No 1 would make a difference in the Malaysian political scene, the latter because with Anwar leading a semi-unified opposition, the government may be denied its 2/3 majority in parliament, the primary obsession of Lim.
The majority of ordinary Malaysians who had had enough of BN’s empty promises of a clean and effective government entertains hopes of a more democratic political system with Anwar Ibrahim at the helm of the opposition in parliament, to check and balance the government's conduct.
Whether basing their hopes on Anwar Ibrahim is wise or correct is besides the point. Many still hope for a strong Malay opposition leader with secular and multi-ethnic credentials, and why they see these in Anwar Ibrahim may not be logical but completely understandable - I was once one of them. As they say, a drowning man would clutch at a straw, and for 'drowning' Malaysians, the straw seems to be Anwar Ibrahim.
OK, who would be those ‘some exceptions’ I mentioned above, who wouldn’t be happy with Anwar Ibrahim as a PKR candidate?
I reckon they are Anwar Ibrahim himself and his inner (former UMNO) circle in PKR. By standing as a PKR candidate, he severs his ties big-time from UMNO, and diminishes his prime ministerial prospects by a zillionth!
However, standing under a PKR ticket does not necessary mean the final closure of UMNO doors to Anwar, which I had carefully qualified in an earlier statement above as 'near irrevocable, irredeemable and irreversible’, meaning it's not completely ‘irrevocable, irredeemable and irreversible’. He could well be another Ku Li by being admitted once again to UMNO even after he has become a PKR candidate, but just look at the once powerful Ku Li today.
I posted in Ku Li no longer Kool & Kalm! that:
"Tengku Razaleigh or Ku Li, as he is affectionately known, - Kelantan Prince, former UMNO strongman, former Finance Minister, and an almost-Prime Minister - had his meteoric political ascendancy in UMNO truncated when he was effectively cast into the political wilderness. After his bruising battle with Dr Mahathir, he left the most powerful political entity in Malaysia, UMNO, to form the rival Semangat 46".
"Ku Li's Semangat 46 was a political flop. Eventually even Ku Li had to creep back to UMNO. Undoubtedly Anwar Ibrahim has studied this clear lesson, that without UMNO, no political aspirant could or would get anywhere."
"But Ku Li had too many baggage - he departed UMNO in acrimonious circumstances, he took too long to return, perhaps he was unforgiven by Mahathir, and as a very senior member he was a virtual threat to every ambitious wannabe leader in UMNO."
"He languished in the shadows in UMNO until he saw his old mate, Ahmad Abdullah Badawi ascending to the No 1 position, when he thought he might have a place at the top again. But Comeback Kid he wasn't, for sadly his former supporter, now PM, saw no further use for him. Besides, a man long out of mainstream UMNO politics is considered as a political zombie, a political living dead. And the embarrassing part has been that he came back because he was a failure outside."
Anwar Ibrahim knows that his situation mirrors Ku Li's career path, and doesn’t want to end up like the Kelantan prince - once the shining star but now near forgotten, an embarrassment unwanted even by his former allies, and a self-admitted failure - because a man like Anwar Ibrahim would not and could never accept being 2nd best.
Therefore I believe his posturing is about getting back into UMNO, but Anwar's political charisma and oratorial prowess act like a double-edged sword - it wins him friends, admirers and supporters but also attracts suspicion, fear and enmity.
But what the hell do I know when I don't have any access to Anwar Ibrahim's inner circle or UMNO strategists? But it's Friday and this is my blog afterall.