PETALING JAYA: Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail could not resist but deliver an off-the-cuff “history lesson” during a recent event to announce his electoral pact with Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah Anwar.
The outgoing PKR secretary-general spoke about the early days of Reformasi and how tough it was going against the grain and supporting a fallen leader like Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“At that time, Rafizi was 21 and studying in London while Nurul Izzah was only 18 and studying in Universiti Petronas,” quipped the 50-year-old politician during the event that was held at a hotel next to the PKR headquarters, here recently.
The low-profile politician probably wanted to point out to PKR members in the audience that he had always been there since the inception of the party and that he deserved his dues.
The Saifuddin/Nurul Izzah/Rafizi pact was formed in view of the upcoming PKR polls. They will go around the country to campaign as a team.
Saifuddin is going for the deputy president’s post while his younger team members are contesting for the four vice-presidents’ posts. Nurul Izzah is an incumbent vice-president.
For many, this team is an unlikely pact between a party stalwart and two upcoming stars in the party.
While Nurul Izaah and Saifuddin were vague when asked why the pact was formed, Rafizi was direct and said that the party was bigger than personalities.
Rafizi said the well-documented clashes between Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and deputy president Azmin Ali were hurting the party.
“This situation doesn’t help the rakyat. There is no point being in a political party if what you fight for does not bring benefit to the public. I believe that the contest must remain true to what and why PKR is in politics in the first place,” he said, adding that the pact gave members another option.
Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin, who was the emcee for the event, said the trio were a dynamic “dream team” that had the backing of party leaders and supporters from all over the country.
“Those who attended are the movers and shakers in the party. No other contest launch has gathered such a wide range of leaders and supporters,” he said.
He pointed out that although it was only a two-hour event, leaders from Sabah, Johor, Penang, Selangor and Kedah came to show their support.
Those present included Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen, Alor Setar MP Gooi Hsiao Leung, Penampang MP Darrell Leiking, Selayang MP William Leong and Seri Setia asemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
“This is a team that resonates well with the young leaders or the second echelon in the party. They are creating a huge impact,” said a PKR MP who attended the event, adding that fighting between party leaders could not go on forever.
The deputy president’s post is being contested by incumbent Azmin, Khalid, Hulu Selangor branch member Datuk K. Ramachandran, former Puchong division chief S. Murali and Saifuddin.
PKR vice-president Tian Chua has pulled out of the deputy presidency race and will defend his current position.
The four vice-president posts will be contested by 16 hopefuls including Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh and Padang Serai MP N. Surendran.
A PKR leader who was at the launch to give support to “good friend” Rafizi said that it was perfectly normal to have groups in political parties.
“Barisan Nasional parties also have their own groups. Izzah and Rafizi represent the future while Saifuddin is a senior. It’s a good balance and they can work with one another comfortably,” said the leader who did not want to be identified.
However, a PKR insider who did not want to be identified was not too impressed by the formation of any team and said that it could bring about problems in the future.
“They might not have an independent stand. We also don’t want a case of cliques destroying unity in the party,” he said while acknowledging that campaigning work might be easier with a pact.
Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said this was the first time that PKR candidates were announcing a pact openly.
However, a PKR MP noted that in the 2010 party election, the youth wing was contested by two teams aligned to Shamsul Iskandar and Chegubard (Badrul Hisham Shaharin).
Khoo said candidates who formed a pact could benefit by getting backup from the supporters of their running mates.
“The whole idea of a pact is so that the hard core supporters of one will support the other, and you get a larger base of supporters,” he said.
Nurul Izzah and Rafizi are looked up to and even idolised by Malaysian youngsters of all backgrounds, Khoo said. Saifuddin would have the backing of the older supporters who are Anwar loyalists, but do not necessarily support Azmin, he said.
Khoo, however, said that pacts could backfire and be the start of factionalism in the party, eventually causing problems.
“You have one pact now and later there might be others who want to start their own pacts. We have seen how parties have struggled to unite factions in their parties,” he said.