The Umno general assembly in Kuala Lumpur began yesterday and ends on Saturday, while the PKR national congress in Melaka will be from today to Sunday.
Political analysts said the leaders of both parties would have a tough time managing issues such as infighting, bad optics and possible legal trouble.
The PKR congress will be a test for party president and prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, said Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, from the school of social sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia.
The split within PKR was again out in the open following talk that Anwar’s deputy Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was planning a parallel gathering in Kuala Lumpur.
“PKR is the party of the prime minister-in-waiting. Many Malaysians will be watching to see if Anwar can handle the crisis within his own party ahead of him potentially taking over at the national level.
“Maybe this is the opportunity for the president to pacify those who are against his leadership and to bring back focus on the struggle that started the party.
“It is a clear sign that the party is divided and that those behind the event don’t respect the leadership, perhaps because of certain decisions that they felt were vindictive or personal instead of in the party’s interests,” he said, referring to Azmin’s “congress”.
Prof Sivamurugan said PKR might also get in trouble with the Registrar of Societies if there are indeed two parallel congresses because this might not comply with the rules and regulations.
“Whatever decisions made at the congress could also affect the government as PKR is Pakatan’s main component party.
“For example, if those in one of the two camps decide to leave, the PKR numbers will shrink and this will affect the party’s position.
“The PKR leaders have to consider how to rebuild the party image instead of weakening the party because of a leadership crisis,” he said.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia politics and governance research group head Dr Mazlan Ali said Anwar would have to convince PKR members of the party’s strength and that it is not an individualistic party, despite all the strife.
“Anwar seems to have a firm hand. He has stated that he would not compromise with any troublemakers,” he said.
He added that that there was no easy way for Azmin to exit PKR because his supporters and the public were watching his moves and counting on him to be rational.
Azmin has instead resorted to acts such as skipping PKR meetings and voicing support for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad finishing his term, said Mazlan.
“If Dr Mahathir hands over power to Anwar, surely Azmin will not have a future in politics anymore. Azmin needs to separate himself from Anwar but he has to make sure he will still have a political platform,” said Mazlan.
On what to expect at the Umno general assembly, Prof Sivamurugan believes there will be emphasis on the party’s recent by-election wins.
Also pivotal will be the extent to which Umno can convince its members and others in Barisan of the relevance and benefits of the Umno-PAS alliance.
“At the same time, Umno leaders may want to build trust and confidence among Barisan members that the alliance is beyond political ideology but is instead a new kind of political collaboration,” he said.Mazlan said Umno aimed to show its members that their struggles have regained acceptance among the people, especially the Malays, whose concerns were growing because of several sensitive issues.
“This is corroborated by Barisan’s victories in the recent by-elections in Rantau, Semenyih, Cameron Highlands and Tanjung Piai, which have shown an increase in Malay support.
“Umno also wants to show that its leadership is ready to face any challenges despite there being no guarantee that Umno will be safe, as it is facing issues such as its leaders’ court cases and the party’s possible de-registration by RoS
for receiving money linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd,” he said.
It is also possible that Umno has internal troubles, with some leaders reportedly having attended secret meetings with Azmin, said Mazlan.
“I expect issues regarding integrity within the party will be given attention at the assembly, as well as how Umno’s alliance with PAS can be strengthened to face the 15th General Election.
“The PKR congress and Umno general assembly are very important for the two parties to chart their future paths,” said Mazlan.
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