Well, it seems Premesh Chandrean’s advice to the PKR, published in malaysiakini, has not been taken up – I blogged a wee bit on that in Machap - Mana magic Anwar? - Ijok? - macam mana Anwar?
PKR is likely to nominate a Malay candidate, Khalid Ibrahim, for the Ijok by-election. The PKR Youth vice-chief S Manikavasagam has expressed his unhappiness, pointing out a couple of things to the PKR top echelon, namely (1) notwithstanding that Ijok is a constituency with 50% Malay voters, the Barisan Nasional (BN) is fielding an Indian candidate, so why not PKR? and (2) Khalid Ibrahim is a political ‘parachutist’, having just joined the party less than a year ago while there are capable PKR Indian members who have been in PKR for years and could well be the nominated candidate for the by-election.
So, is PKR nothing more than a clone of the BN playing ethnic politics, or perhaps even worse because the BN will be putting up an MIC nominee?
On the surface I would say yes, and even point out that the PKR is afterall a splinter disgruntled branch of UMNO.
However, while there’s no doubt the PKR leaders are relying on Khalid Ibrahim’s ethnicity to win over the majority of Ijok’s voters, there may be more reasons, in fact with the urgency of a ‘survival’ matter.
(1) PKR has fared bloody badly in both the last general election and last year in the Sarawak state elections, by comparison to its now-convenient ally, the DAP.
(2) Its Wonder Boy hasn’t achieved anything notable in three campaigns, namely Pengkalan Pasir for PAS, Sarawak for itself and recently Machap for the DAP. Anwar Ibrahim’s political attractiveness is now in serious question.
(3) To shore up its supporters' morale and to gain some leverage for seats bargaining with the DAP soon, it must win the Ijok seat or it will see its terminal illness becoming final.
(4) It has decided that the same formula used in the 2000 Lunas by-election, that is, putting a Malay candidate against an MIC candidate in a Malay majority seat, would be the best and perhaps only option.
But perhaps it may be worthwhile reminding ourselves of what Premesh had written about the Lunas by-election:
Some suggest that the key factor for PKR’s win then was the fielding of a Malay candidate against MIC’s S Anthonysamy which brought a crucial swing of Malay votes.
However, as the then deputy president of PKR, Chandra Muzzafar wrote, it was no single factor but several that came together to produce such as dramatic swing.
These included strong dissatisfaction among the Chinese as they watched BN backtracking on 1999 election promises and anger against then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad among the Malays.
However, the victory did have its price, especially among Indian voters. As Chandra noted, "… in wake of the squabble over the Lunas seat, a serious mis-perception has developed about PKR's commitment to the interests and aspirations of the Indian minority. As a multiethnic, multireligious party devoted to justice and dignity for each and every community, PKR will have to address this issue".
Well, will the Chinese in Ijok play ball? Let’s see what Tian Chua and the DAP (which has offered to help campaign) can do? But I don’t suppose Dr Mahathir will oblige by making 'noise' prior to the Ijok day of election.
But already, dark thoughts are looming in the Indian section of the PKR. Those poor Indians feel marginalised not only by the government and the Gerakan, but now in PKR also.
The only silver lining for PKR is that over in the MIC, the pre-nomination squabble has also begun.