From Malaysiakini Wan Azizah to be opposition leader for now.
The last two words of that headline, ‘for now’, sure tell us a lot – that the informal coalition of PKR-DAP-PAS has indicated it is waiting for Anwar Ibrahim to enter Parliament to assume the Opposition leadership. His wife is merely a caretaker leader.
Currently he is barred from standing for elective office because of a civil disenfranchisement due to a corruption conviction.
But on 15 April 2008 he becomes eligible.
I mentioned in Khalid Ibrahim to give way to Anwar in Bandar Tun Razak? of the likely possibility of Khalid Ibrahim vacating his Bandar Tun Razak parliamentary seat for Anwar to contest in an by-election. Khalid has plenty on his hands as MB of Selangor.
The voters in Bandar Tun Razak comprise 52% Malays, 39% Chinese and 8% Indians, a nice rounded multiethnic makeup.
With the coalition of PKR-DAP-PAS currently enjoying immense popularity in FT and Selangor, Anwar Ibrahim will in all probability ride on that goodwill to victory if he stands there. It’s called the ‘halo’ effect – the ‘feel good’ euphoria about the new political alliance that will rub on to his by-election advantage despite any non-Malay suspicions, if any, of him.
On the other hand, he may be too precious an asset to the loose coalition to chance the voters in Bandar Tun Razak, because we may be sure the BN will be pouring every resource and propaganda gimmick into the by-election. What if the BN succeeds? It will be a mortal demoralising blow to the PKR-DAP-PAS bloc, something they may not wish to incur, and hence not tempt the possibility by standing him there.
Well, there is always Permatang Pauh, where Dr Wan Azizah roamed home with a staggering 13,000+ majority (as compared to her slim 2004 500+ majority). The ethnic composition is a comforting 67.6% Malay, 26.3% Chinese and about 6% Indians.
However, Ong Kian Ming, a political science doctoral candidate, wrote last year that as PKR has been contesting the middle ground with mixed ethnic populated constituencies, maybe Anwar Ibrahim should show his credentials, credibility and confidence as the leader of the new multiethnic political (federal) Opposition by going for such a mixed seat, which would be one with a typical composition of 58% Malay, 31% Chinese and 11% Indian voters, the sort of seat that Bandar Tun Razak precisely is.
Mind you, Ong wrote this recommendation almost one year ago when he was looking at a 'future' election that has already come with delightful results. Ong was then discussing the need for Anwar to demonstrate his ability to pick up support from such a mixed constituency, to prove he has the support from all communities.
As I said, the situation has now changed somewhat where the value of Anwar Ibrahim is unlikely to be gambled, not when the Opposition has 82 seats to hold the BN to account in federal Parliament.
But what about the Balik Pulau seat in Penang Island, Anwar’s home State? The victorious PKR candidate there is Mohd Yusmadi Bin Mohd Yusoff, who had in a pre election campaign mentioned he was willing to surrender the seat to Anwar Ibrahim. I recall Anwar, who was then with him in the campaigning, didn’t reject that offer.
Balik Pulau also fits Ong’s recommendation of a typical ethnic mixed seat that would be ideal for Anwar to showcase his acceptability to every community, since it has 59% Malay, 36% Chinese and 5% Indian.
Perhaps Anwar Ibrahim may feel more at home in Balik Pulau too. Apart from being his home State, he’ll be strongly supported by the DAP-led State government there.